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Gleam and Glow (Bring Back What Once Was Mine)

Chapter Text

This is the story of how Tony Stark died. 

But don’t worry, this is actually quite a fun story, but in all honesty, I don’t know how much of it is even mine to tell. This is the tale of a boy named, Peter, and it starts the way all good fairy tales should start. It starts with a hint of magic.   

Now, once upon a time, a single drop of magic fell from the heavens. And from this small piece of magic grew a fern. It was small, yet lively, and bloomed bright green; it’s leaves dotted with brown freckles, and its tendrils curled mischievously. 

This plant was found by a man named, Quentin Beck. Quentin was a weak man, both mentally and physically, so to make himself more powerful and imposing, he harnessed the magical properties the fern possessed and hid it for himself.   

The plant could give him the power to create magical facades that would seem to manipulate realities. The plant could also improve his health, as he became stronger almost overnight. By the rest of society, he was seen as a threat. Someone not to be messed with. Some people were even frightened by the man. 

Quentin loved the power, and eventually, felt as though he couldn’t live without it. All he had to do to get the power was to sing a special song. All right, you get the idea. He sings to the plant, it gives him magic and makes him jacked. Creepy, right? 

Well, eventually, a kingdom named York grew. The kingdom was ruled by a beloved king and queen, and you see, the queen got sick. Really sick. She was about to have a baby, but she was running out of time. And this is when people usually start to look for a miracle; or in this case, a magic freckled fern. 

Quentin heard of this search and grew frightened, but he was too late to protect his treasure, and the people of York got to it first. 

The magic of the plant healed the queen, and she delivered a bouncing baby boy. The prince was born with abnormally long, beautiful brown hair. He was instantly loved by anyone who laid eyes on him. I’ll confirm your suspicions. That’s Peter. 

To celebrate his birth, the king and queen launched a flying lantern into the sky. For that one day, everything was perfect, but then that day ended. 

Quentin knew that the prince possessed the powers of the fern and snuck into the castle. When he sang to Peter, his hair glowed with magnificent silver light. Quentin was ecstatic, for his magic was still alive! 

But to his horror, when he tried to cut the baby’s hair, he discovered that the locks would die and curl up. So, in an act of quick thinking, Quentin tucked the prince into his cloak and fled the grounds, hellbent on keeping his powers to himself. 

The kingdom searched and searched, desperate to find their child, but with no luck, they could not locate Quentin or Peter. But, deep in the forest, in a magnificent, hidden tower, Quentin raised the prince as his own. 

When he brushed Peter’s hair and sang his song, the hair would shine its silver glow and would replenish Quentin’s powers. He had found his fern once again, and this time, he was determined to keep it alive. 

He would spin lies and stories of how the outside world was dangerous and deadly and would scare Peter into never wanting to leave the tower. But the walls of that tower couldn’t keep everything a secret. 

As they did the day he was born, the king and queen would release hundreds of lanterns into the sky on the night of Peter’s birthday. Even after the king and queen had tragically passed, the king’s brother and his wife took up the throne, and they continued the tradition. 

They were embedded with the hope that one day, their long lost prince would see the lights, and would finally find his way home.     

Chapter Text

Sunlight spilled into the valley like tea over the edge of a cup. The world glimmered around the tower, all darkness eradicated; every plant, stone, and surface practically glowing with warmth. 

The tower itself stood tall and untouched. The stone body covered in the right amount of moss. The roof, green and shingled and perfectly sloped. The sole entrance to the building sitting high above the earth; its frame painted in swirling brush strokes, and vines of red flowers twisting downwards. Every leaf and tendril of those vines reaching towards the ground, as if they yearn for the familiar touch of grass and dirt.    

Inside, Peter runs around the living space. He leaps over the maze of hair that trails behind him. His locks decorating the house like an ever-moving carpet. The boy races and bounds, jumping from side to side to avoid getting tangled up and tripping. 

If his father were here, he would yell at the boy for running or for allowing his hair to get out of control. But that wasn’t necessarily an easy task to handle when you have seventy feet of hair to keep track of. 

And anyway, Peter’s father wasn’t here at the moment, so Peter took this as an advantage and ran to his heart's content; throwing open draws and cupboards. Searching in every spot that might be able to house a robot the size of a dinner roll. 

Finally, he pulled back the shutters to the window, something telling him that he would find his friend hiding on the sill. 

“Ha!” He shouts, only to be greeted with nothing new. “Well,” the boy says, playing dumb and wiping his hands on his pants. “I guess Ned’s not out here.” 

Sticking out from the corner of one of the flower pots, Peter can see a small, mechanical leg, and the boy gives it a few seconds. He walks away, but at the last second, he whips a piece of hair out, looping it around the hook above the window, and then looping it onto Ned’s exposed leg. 

He gives the hair a fierce tug, and Ned goes flying into the air, beeping in surprise. 

“Gotcha!” Peter exclaims, “Man, buddy, you gotta get better at hiding. You’ve picked that spot seven times already.” 

The mechanical spider leaps into Peter’s outstretched hand and beeps in protest. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Peter says, “alright, well that’s twenty-two for me. How about the best of thirty-five out of sixty?” 

Ned shakes his head. Peter didn’t understand how, but it was as if his robotic friend had somehow developed some sort of human emotions, and could now communicate and express his feelings through movements and beeping. 

“Well, fine,” Peter huffs, “what would you like to do?” 

Ned seems to liven, and he jumps from Peter’s hand to the window sill. He points one of the legs towards the world outside, making an excited buzzing sound. 

Peter almost laughs. He sits on the sill and gathers up the spider in his hands. “Uh, yeah, that’s a big no. You know the rules. Besides, I like it here.”  

Ned seems to have frowned. 

“Oh, come on, Neddy. It’s not that bad.” 

Peter slides off the window and back into the safety of the tower. What he had said was partly true; he did enjoy it in the building. It was his home, the only place he ever knew. He had spent almost sixteen years there, and according to his father, would be living there for the rest of his life. 

But that was okay, he guessed. Besides, if his father’s stories were anything to go off of, the outside world was deadly and terrifying. Peter didn’t know how his father could stand to venture outside the tower’s walls as he did. 

Peter’s father was gone a lot. He never told his son what he was doing, but Peter didn’t really want to know. This tower was his haven, and the more he stayed inside, the safer he was. 

But that didn’t mean that he wasn’t curious. Especially about the lights. 

Every year, on the night of his birthday, the sky above the cliff walls would fill with hundreds of lights. They were absolutely gorgeous, and Peter would always sneak out of bed after his father had gone to sleep and watch the lights float into the heavens above. 

Something about them seemed to call him. If only he could figure out why. 

Tomorrow was his sixteenth birthday. Maybe just this once, with his father’s supervision, he would be allowed to see the lights in person. 



….



The shingles of the castle roof felt slippery under Tony’s calloused hands. 

The man slid down the slope, jumping at just the right moment and landing on a flatter, and luckily less shingled, part of the rooftop. His boots had enough grip that he could run without fear of falling, a laugh bubbled up from his throat. 

Behind him, he could hear the pounding footsteps of his partners-in-crime. He was sure that they wouldn’t have been as happy as he was with his sudden joyous outburst, but then again, Obie and Toomes have never done anything joyous in their lives. 

Tony suddenly grabs a hold of a post, skidding to a stop to catch his breath. That’s when his gaze falls on the world around him. 

The kingdom was bathed in light. The lake surrounding the island was as smooth as crystal; the forest lush and bright; the town at the castle’s feet lively and bustling. 

A small whistle of admiration leaves Tony’s lips. “Damn! I could get used to a view like this.” 

Obie stops his panting long enough to say, “Tony, come on.” 

“Wait,” Tony holds up a hand, “yep. I’m used to it. Men, I want a castle.” 

Obie growls, “We finish this, you can buy your own castle.” 

The skylight over the crown’s chambers wasn’t hard to locate, and it took very little effort to jimmy the glass from its frame. Tony was tied into the rope, and then Toomes and Obie lowered him into the chamber below. 

The descent was slow, and Tony kept his eyes glued to the guards who currently had their backs turned. Finally, Tony found himself hovering right over the lost prince's crown, it’s gemstones glimmering in the light. With a quick swoop, he had the crown safely in his satchel, and was ready to ascend, when a guard in front of him sneezed. 

“Ugh, allergies?” Tony asked, his voice thick with his signature snark. “That pollens’ a real bitch, huh?”  

“Yeah,” the guard said with a small laugh; a reflexive response.

By the time the guard realized what had just happened, Tony and his partners were already bounding off the palace’s roof and into the streets below. The satchel and crown were slung safely across Tony’s torso, and this time, Tony cackled.     

“Can’t you picture me with a kingdom of my own?” Tony called out as he ran, “Because I sure can. Oh, all the things we’ve done and it’s only eight in the morning. Men, this is a very big day!” 



….



“This is it,” Peter says to Ned, knowing that his father will be returning soon. “We gotta ask him. Oh lord, this is a very big day.” 

Peter lowers himself from where he had been sitting in the rafter's writing equations on the walls of the tower. He had given up on paper years ago, and since then, he had been decorating the walls and ceiling of the building with math and scientific equations like his own strange wallpaper. His father had taken to calling it creative. 

But a sudden voice filtered in through the window, and Peter’s heart skipped a beat. 

“Peter!” Quentin called from the ground below. “I’m back! Let down your hair!” 

“It’s time!” Peter says excitedly, Ned leaping onto the wall and climbing his own way down. With a quick swing, Peter’s feet are on the floor and he is running over to the window. 

“Peter!” Quentin calls again, sounding slightly agitated. “I’m not getting any stronger down here!” 

“Sorry, Father, coming!” Peter loops his hair around the hook over the window and allows almost fifty feet of his brown locks to fall towards the ground. He can feel it as his father grabs on, and then the boy starts to pull. 

He had always been strong; it was times like this that he was most grateful for it. 

“Hi, Father, welcome back,” Peter greets, a tired smile stretching across his face. 

“Pete, how do you manage to do that every day, time after time?” Quentin asks, stepping into the tower. “It seems like a strain.” 

“Oh, you know, Father. It’s nothing.” 

“Then I don’t know why you’re always breaking a sweat,” Quentin taps Peter under the chin and laughs, “oh, Pete, you know I kid. But seriously, you’re sweating through your shirt.” 

Peter’s lips press together and he tugs the rest of his hair into the living space. He watches as Quentin removes his purple cloak and steps in front of the mirror.  

“Alright…” Peter starts, “so, Father, you know that tomorrow is kinda an important day--” 

“Peter,” Quentin suddenly says, cutting his son off and pulling him in close. “Look here, what do you see?” Peter stares at himself in the mirror. His father had his arm wrapped around the boy’s shoulders, and the man was right. Peter seemed to be sweating right through his tunic. 

“You know what I see?” Quentin says when his son doesn't answer. “I see a strong, handsome, brilliant young man. Oh look, you’re here too!” He laughs once more, “Oh, you know I kid. I kid.” 

Peter pushes past the comment and tries to ask the question that’s been bugging him. “Right, so Father, you know… tomorrow. Kinda a big day, and--” 

“Treasure, I’m feeling a little run down right now. Would you sing to me? Then we’ll talk.” 

Annoyance was settling in Peter’s mind, but he realizes that the faster he sang, the quicker he’ll get to ask his question. “Of course, Father.” 

Quentin sits down in his chair, and Peter shoves a hairbrush into his father’s hand, plopping down on the floor in front of him and starting to sing without warning. “Magic, gleam and glow, let your power known. Let them all now see, just how strong I can be. Strengthen what has broke, change the fates' design. Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine. Give what should belong, bring back what once was mine.” 

His hair lights up faster than lightning, glowing a fantastic silver, and then extinguishing as soon as the song finishes. “Peter!” Quentin cries, obviously disappointed.  

Peter just can’t hold it in any longer. “Father! Earlier I was talking about how tomorrow is important, and I’ll just tell you, it’s my birthday!” 

The frown is wiped off Quentin’s face and he tsk’s. “I know that I tease, Treasure, but I didn’t expect you to learn how so suddenly. I am certain your birthday was last year.”  

Peter laughs nervously, “Weird how birthdays seem to be a yearly occurrence .” Quentin pushes out of his chair just as Peter starts to pace. “Father, I'm gonna be sixteen, and what I wanted for this birthday… actually, what I’ve kinda wanted for every birthday--”  

“Ugh, Peter!” Quentin trips over his son’s hair suddenly but manages to catch himself on the table. “Don’t leave your hair where I could step on it! We’ve talked about this!” 

Peter winces, “Sorry, but… oh, Father, I..” 

Quentin’s eyebrow twitches, “Just spit it out, Peter.” 

The response all but explodes out Peter’s mouth. “I want to see the floating lights!”

His father’s agitated expression is wiped from his face, and instead, replaced with a look of puzzlement. “What?” 

Peter sinks back sheepishly, “Um… for my present. I was hoping that you could take me to see the floating lights. You must know what I mean.” 

A smile that looks forced spreads over the older man’s face. “Pete, you mean the stars.” 

Peter can’t hold back the frown, “Father, you see, I’ve charted stars, but they’re always constant,” the boy points towards a section of the ceiling that is covered in more equations. Only a trained eye would be able to notice that all of those numbers have to do with constellations and calendars. “These… these are so much different. They only come out once a year. On my birthday. It’s weird, but I can’t help… oh, I can’t help but feel like they’re meant for me. Is that crazy?” 

“Treasure--” 

“Father, I have to see them. And not just from my bedroom window. In person. With my own eyes. I can’t spend another birthday watching them fly into the sky and then disappearing.” 

Quentin just smiles, “You want to go outside? Peter, look at yourself. You’re a child… fragile. A sapling still learning which way to grow.” 

“Father--” 

“You know why we stay up here.” 

“I know, but--” 

“Shhh,” Quentin places his finger over Peter’s lips, and Peter had half a mind just to bite his father out of spite. “Peter, you have to trust me. Who has actually experienced the outside world?” 

“You.” 

“Yes, and what have I been telling you about the outside world ever since you were young?” 

“That’s it's dangerous. That people would want to hurt me for my hair.” 

“Oh, you're so smart,” Quentin praises, ruffling his son’s bangs and launching back into that babying voice. “How did ever end up this smart?” 

Peter tries to ignore the condescending tone. “Luck, I guess.”

“That’s right. Luck. Pure luck… and it’s that same thing that is keeping you safe up here from the ruffians and thugs and the plague that awaits outside. You are so very, very lucky, Peter, to have me in your life. I know how to take care of my boy, don’t I?” 

Peter stares up at his father. At his swooping, brown hair; his stern, blue eyes; at the perfectly trimmed beard that covered his sharp jawline. Peter saw his life -- everything familiar -- all wrapped up into one person.  

Finally, the boy swallowed down the lump in his throat. “Yes, Father, you do. You know best.” 

Quentin gave his first genuine smile. “I know best.” 

Peter turns to start preparing his Father’s belongs for his next excursion when the man’s voice has him pausing. 

“Peter?” 

“Yes, Father?” 

And suddenly, Quentin’s blue eyes are as hard as stones. An icy gaze that sends a chill throughout the boy. “Don’t ever ask to leave this tower again.” 

Peter deflates with disappointment, “Yes, Father.” 

Quentin takes the boy’s chin gently in his large hand. “I love you, my Treasure.” 

“I love you, more.” 

“Not possible.” 

Less than two hours later, Quentin is hugging his son goodbye before departing for a second time. “I’ll see you in a bit, Pete,” the man says softly. 

Peter hugs him back, not willing to meet his father’s gaze as he says, “I’ll be here.”

Chapter Text

The forest was nothing more than a blur as Tony dashed through the overgrowth. The mossy ground was spongy under the soles of his feet as he practically bounded around trees and danced around roots and barbs. 

His lungs burned; his legs pleading with him to slow down, but he couldn’t. The soldiers were still hot on his heels, and as long as the crown was still in his possession, he couldn’t slow his sprint.

“Stark!” Toomes shouts over his shoulder, “Keep up!” 

Tony just huffs in response. The other two men were already far ahead of him; both keeping stronger stride and pace. 

Tony leaps over a fallen log and narrowly misses getting clipped by a low hanging branch. Behind him, he can hear the pounding of horses, and shouting from the commander of the guard. 

Suddenly, the back of Tony’s vest is being grabbed, and he is pulled into the cool brush by a strong hand. He struggles for only a second before realizing that it was Obie who pulled him in. 

“Shut up, and stay still,” the taller man scolds, and Tony’s eyes narrow. 

“Get rid of this,” Toomes demands, and a piece of paper is being shoved into Tony’s grasp. 

Tony looks down at the wanted poster’s now in his hands. The first one shows a picture of both Toomes and Obie side by side. The drawing is pretty well done, and the reward is high. If Tony wasn’t also a criminal, he might’ve gone and turned his partners in to have that many zeros in his pocket. 

He flips to the second page and can’t help but scoff. The picture is clearly of him, but the thing that is really triggering is the horribly depicted facial hair. 

“What?” Obie asks, picking up on the scoff. 

“It’s ludicrous,” Tony says. 

Toomes eyebrows furrow so deeply they almost become a unibrow. “What are you spitting about now, Stark?” 

“How hard is it draw my goatee? I mean, what is this?” Tony shoves the picture of him sporting a sole-patch into his friend’s faces. 

“Shut your bellyaching,” Obie growls and swats the poster away. 

“Humph, easy for you to say. You guys look fantastic.” 

In that instant, the ground thunders with the thumping of hoof steps, and Tony stuffs the posters into his satchel. The other two men are already running. Tony falls into pace behind them; his lungs already aching. 

They don’t get to run for long though, as the trees seem to end and they are cut off by a tall cliffside. In a flurry of panic, Tony said, “Alright, help me up.” 

His colleagues just stare at him in shock. 

“I’ll pull you up after,” Tony explains quickly. 

“Give us the bag,” Obie holds out his hand. 

“And I’d thought I earned your trust,” Tony says, that previous snark sneaking back in. 

Obie and Toomes both just glare at him with narrowed eyes. 

“Ouch,” Tony says and hands the bag over. 

Less than a minute later, Tony is climbing up their backs like a human ladder. At the last second, he slips the satchel right off of Obie’s shoulders and then scampers up onto the higher ground. 

“Stark, give me your hand,” Obie orders, panic seeping into his voice. 

Tony just smirks, “Sorry, Obe, but I don’t think I have one to spare.” 

Obie catches sight of the satchel in Tony’s hand, but Tony is already running before he can steal it back. The last thing Tony hears is his colleague's cries of anger.  

This time, sprinting doesn't feel as tiring as it did before. The horses are still behind him, but it’s less threatening than earlier. Tony assumes that most of the guards stopped in order to obtain Toomes and Obie, but one still seemed in his tracks. 

A tree was in the distance, and Tony raced towards the trunk, climbing swiftly and grabbing onto a close vine. The commander and his horse advanced on the tree, and Tony jumped into the air, hoping to everything above that this would work. 

The vine swings a full 360 around the trunk, and with his feet extended, Tony knocks the guard off his horse and to the ground. It must have been sheer luck that Tony didn’t fall off of the steed’s back as it kept running. 

“Yahoo!” Tony shouts, embracing his non-existent inner equestrian. “Giddy up!” 

The horse suddenly skids to a stop an easy mile away from the tree and its original-yet-unconscious rider. 

“Aw, come on!” Tony says, kicking his calves into the horse's stomach. “Move horsie!” 

The horse almost seems to glare at Tony, but then it’s brown eyes fall on the satchel around Tony’s torso, and it suddenly starts snapping its teeth at the bag. 

“Wha-- No!” Tony shouts, handling the reins with one hand, and holding the satchel with the other. “No, no! Bad horse!” 

The horse starts to buck, and Tony can only hold his grip for so long before both he and the satchel go flying. Luckily, he has landed safely on the ground, but when he raises his head, he notices the bag hanging onto a tree that is overlooking the nearby gorge.

In a matter of seconds, Tony is scampering to his feet and racing towards the dangling bag. But the horse is also violently trying to get a hold on Tony’s vest, so he finds himself jumping every which way to avoid the steed’s grasp. 

“Aha!” Tony cries once he has leaped onto the tree branch and has grabbed the satchel. 

But he has also seriously underestimated the strength of this branch, and after a defining snap, both he and the horse are plummeting into the foggy depths. 


….


There is someone in the valley. 

Peter knew it wasn’t his father. For one, the person didn’t call for him to let down his hair, and secondly, the person was now climbing the body of the tower to get inside. 

Peter had himself hidden from sight, the heaviest wrench he owned now secured in his grasp. It was slightly rusty, but that wouldn’t stop it from being able to be swung at the intruder. 

The person was breathing heavily as they scaled the tower, and moments later, Peter observed in freight as they crawled through the window and into the living space. It was a man, and fortunately enough, he had his back turned to the boy. 

The man reached for the bag he had slung around his torso and looked inside. 

He sighed, “Finally.” 

But he didn’t get to say much more before Peter had clobbered him in the back of the head with his wrench. The hit wasn’t that hard, but it was enough to have him fall to the ground, unconscious. 

Peter just stared. For the first time in almost sixteen years, he was looking at someone other than his father. 

He felt it when Ned scampered up his back and then rested on his shoulder. The little spider beeped in worry. Peter ignored his friend and took a tentative step towards the stranger, curious. Ned only shuffled backward. 

The man had dark brown hair, and facial hair that covered his chin and upper lip. A style that Peter thinks his father might’ve once called a goatee. He also wore a bright red vest with gold piping, a button-down shirt, and deep, hunter green pants. The man’s brown boots looked scuffed; well worn with use and slightly muddied. 

Ned beeped and buzzed some more. 

“Waddya think he is, Ned? A ruffian or a thug?” Peter asked, feeling intrigued. “That’s not what the plague looks like, is it?” 

Ned seemed to shudder out of fear on the boy’s shoulder, the robot nestling into the teen’s hair. 

The man seems out cold, so Peter steps away for a second. But suddenly, a flash of something shiny catches his eye, and he is directed towards the man’s abandoned satchel. Peter walks over and picks up the bag, cautiously. Inside, there is something unknown to the boy. 

A large, golden hoop, covered in what looked like shards of glass, and ornately designed stones. It was gorgeous and shimmered in the sunlight. 

“What in the--” Peter mutters as he turns the thing over in his hands. The boy walks over to the nearby mirror and stared at himself, then down at the hoop. 

He placed it on his wrist, but Ned shook his head, obviously not convinced that that was the object’s purpose. Peter spun it around his finger next, thinking that maybe it was some incredibly fancy toy. But the hoop quickly lost balance, and Peter had to catch it before it clattered to the ground. 

Finally, the boy brought the object up to the top of his head. “Maybe…” he says, placing it on his hair, and staring at himself in the mirror long and hard. 

Ned was silent for a beat before beeping in displeasure. That obviously wasn’t it either. 

Peter just sighed and turned back to the knocked out man. He places the hoop back in its bag, his arms coming to cross along his chest. “What should we do with him, Ned?” 

The only place Peter could think to hide him was in the closet nearby. His father wouldn’t open that one since it was empty, and it was the closest thing with a lock. 

With a grunt, Peter picked the man up with his shoulders and dragged him over to the wardrobe. He propped open the door and somehow managed to shove the man in. It was a struggle, but the stranger was soon secured inside. Not comfortably, Peter imagined. 

“Okay, okay, okay, okay…” Peter says, holding his wrench in the direction of the wardrobe like the man might spring back out and attack. “There’s a man in the tower, and now, he’s in my closet. There’s a man… in my closet. Ha! How you like that, Father? Who’s the sapling now?” 

Suddenly, a new voice is ringing up from the valley and Peter is jumping back in surprise. “Peter! Let down your hair!” 

Peter lets his hair tumble towards the ground, and as soon as Quentin is climbing into the tower, Peter spots the huge smile spread across his father’s face. 

“I have a huge surprise,” Quentin says cheerily. 

Peter reels the rest of his hair back into the living space, “So do I,” he mutters, staring at his father’s back as the older man removes his cloak. 

“I brought squash,” Quentin says, placing his basket full of produce on the table. “Thought I’d make soup for dinner, and you could make the cornbread. Just like how we used to do. How’s that for a surprise?” 

Peter laughs nervously, “Uh, it’s great, Father, but I wanted to talk to you about something--” 

“Treasure, you know I hate leaving after an argument, but--” 

“Father.” 

“Peter, don’t interrupt.” 

“Sorry, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.” 

Quentin laughs, “When are you not?” 

“But I have--” 

“I hope it’s not still about the stars.” 

Peter inches closer to the wardrobe. His hands felt shaky. “The lights, but, yes. I’m leading up to that.” 

“Peter, I really thought we dropped that whole topic.” 

Quentin’s stare wasn’t anything close to friendly. Peter takes another step backward. “Father, just, earlier, you said I was not ready for the outside. But I just think you were wrong--” 

Quentin’s eyes widen slightly, “Pete, don’t tell me what’s right and wrong.” 

His words go in one ear and out the other as Peter continues to back up. The door to the wardrobe was so close… “But if you just trust me, Father, I know--” 

“Peter, we’re done talking about this.” 

“I know what I’m doing, and…” 

“Peter.” 

“Oh, come on--” 

“Enough with the lights, Peter! You are not leaving this tower! Ever!” Quentin explodes, his eyes blowing wide open and his voice louder than Peter had ever heard it. The boy immediately removes his hand from the wardrobe’s handle out of shock. 

It takes Quentin a second, but he eventually regains some form of composure and falls into a chair like a victim. “Oh, perfect,” he sighs, “you’ve made me the villain.” 

Peter watches his father, the boy’s heart rate decreasing slowly, but his thoughts running a mile a minute. After a long moment, Peter steps towards Quentin tentatively. 

“Before… all I was gonna say was… I, uh… I know what I want for my birthday.” 

Quentin removes his hand from his forehead but doesn't open his eyes. “What do you want?” 

“Some new texts. Maybe books by that mechanic you met a year or so ago. The one that attempted to build a flying machine. I, uh… I’ve read all of my copies.” 

Quentin's eyes open slowly, and he brings his gaze to meet his son. “That man does not live close, Peter. The trip will be long. Almost three days.”

“I just thought it would be better than stars.” 

Quentin lets out a long sigh and stands. He walks towards his son slowly, taking the boy’s head in his hands and bringing it forward, so he can plant a kiss to the top of his hair. 

“You sure you’ll be okay on your own?” Quentin asks. 

Peter nods, “I’ve done it before.” 

Quentin’s mouth is pressed in a grim line, yet he still nods. “Alright. I’ll be back in three days. No more. I love you very much, Treasure.” 

Peter gives a small smile. “I love you more.” 

Quentin runs his hand down the back of the boy’s head; his calloused fingers getting caught in the subtle waves of hair. He presses a second kiss to the crown of his child’s locks. 

“I love you most.”

Chapter Text

Tony woke up to the feeling of something pinching his cheek, and consciousness crashed into him like a wave. First feeling, and then light. He groaned and rubbed his cheek against his shoulder, a desperate attempt to rid his skin of the itchy thing being poked into his face. 

Tony groans, the light still bright and blinding, and there is an ache in the back of his head. “What the…” Tony mumbles, blinking a few times before his eyes adjust to the light. 

When something suddenly beeps on his shoulder, Tony’s gaze drifts to the left, and he spots the small, robotic spider sitting on his shoulder. 

Tony screams in surprise, and the spider jumps about three feet in the air, beeping in shock. The robot scurries away as quickly as possible and disappeared into the darkness. That’s when Tony notices that his wrists and feet are bound to the chair he’s in, and he has no previous memory of sitting here. 

He struggles for a moment, before looking down and feels confusion fall over his features. He was bound with something dense, and brown, and stringy. “Is this… hair?” 

“I wouldn’t try to break free if I were you.” 

Tony’s head whips up at the new voice, and standing about fifteen feet above the floor, is the silhouette of a person on a wooden beam. The hair that he was wrapped up in seemed to come from this silhouette, and Tony squints his eyes trying to focus on the figure. 

“What?” Tony asks. 

“Trying to break free is pointless.” 

Tony chuckles, “Do you think these muscles are just for show?” 

The person swings down to the ground and steps out of the shadows. Tony can’t help but gape-- he honestly thought that this person would either be a fully-fledged adult or a girl, judging just by the volume of hair and sound of their voice. But it wasn’t either of those two. 

This was a boy. A teenager with an endless amount of brown hair, and wide eyes full of fear. He could tell the boy was trying to look strong and threatening, but Tony was able to see through that. 

He was dressed in a creme tunic, tucked into deep blue pants, but his feet were bare. In his hand, he held a huge wrench dotted in rust. The kid held out the tool like a sword in Tony’s direction. 

“I’m not scared of you,” the boy says. 

“You sure about that?” 

“I know why you’re here,” the boy waves the wrench closer to Tony’s face. “How did you find this place, and who are you?” 

Tony eyes the wrench, but then looks up to the child. “Look, Kid, I don't know who you are. I don’t even remember how I found this place. But I do know I came here to hide. I had no idea you were even here.” 

The scowl stays etched into the boy’s features. “Who are you?” 

“My friends call me, Stark.” 

“Okay, Stark, who else knows my location?” 

“What? Location? No one… unless you count a horse.” Tony shakes his head, “Oh god, I hope that horse doesn't know where I am.” 

The kid squints his eyes, “A horse?” 

Tony sighs, “Alright, Spidey--” 

“Peter.”

“Whatever. If you could unwrap me from your homemade restrictions, I will take my satchel and then get out of your hai-- oh, wait! Oh, no! Where is my satchel?” 

Peter smirks and crosses his arms. “I’ve hidden it. Don’t worry about finding it, because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.” 

Tony frowns. “Spidey, you’re making this a whole lot harder for yourself then you need it to be.” 

“So,” Peter starts, ignoring the previous statement. “What do you want with my hair? To sell it? Cut it? Make fancy tapestries out of it?” 

“What!” Tony exclaims, inching back as far as he can when Peter shoves the wrench in his face. “No! All that I want with your hair is to get out of it! Literally!”  

Peter draws back his weapon. “Oh. You don’t want my hair?” 

“No!” 

“Not even to make intricate rugs?” 

“Not even for rugs.” 

That robotic spider is suddenly sitting on Peter’s shoulder, and if Tony’s eyes were working correctly, he was sure the bot glared at him. It beeped and buzzed a few times, and Peter talks to the animatronic like he could understand the sounds as actual words. 

“He could be telling the truth,” Peter mutters. The spider beeps some more. “I know, I know, but… he could take me. If Father isn’t going too…” 

The spider nods its head excitedly, and Peter looks back to Tony, caution filtering through the boy’s wide eyes. 

“Do you know what tomorrow is?” Peter asks, his dark eyebrows threading together. 

“August 10th?” Tony says. 

“You have been outside these walls, correct?” 

Tony resists rolling his eyes. “I’m gonna assume this question is rhetorical.” 

“Every year, on August 10th, the sky fills with hundreds of lights. I assume I am correct, again?” 

Tony’s eyes narrow. “You mean the lantern thing the kingdom does for the missing prince?” 

Peter’s entire intimidation-facade drops and his features seem to light up. “Lanterns… I knew they weren't stars. Well, anyway, I have decided that you will take me to that kingdom and will show me those stars. Then, you will return me home safely and never come back to this tower again. Once we have returned, I will give you your satchel. Okay?” 

Tony laughs, “Fun proposition, Kid, but it is a no-can-do. Unfortunately, the kingdom and I aren't really on speaking terms at the moment, so I don’t feel the same urge you do to go galavanting into the city limits. So, if you could just unwrap me, give me my bag, and pretend I was never here, that would put both of us out of a whole load of trouble.” 

Peter’s beaming expression dulls and turns into a full-on glare. He suddenly grabs a hold of his hair, and with a sharp tug, Tony and his chair are tilting forward into the teen’s grasp. Tony finds himself almost nose to nose with the boy, but it’s hard to maintain eye contact when the boy has caught him in a death stare. 

“Listen here, Stark. You could tear this tower apart stone by stone. Brick by brick. Boulder by boulder. But, without my help. You will never find your precious satchel.” 

“So, your plan is, I take you to see the lanterns, bring you home without a scratch, and you give me back my bag?”   

“I promise. And when I promise something, I never break that promise. Ever.” 

“Never?” 

“Ever.” 

Tony tries to win the death-stare-competition, but it’s pretty obvious that Peter’s not backing down, so the older man sighs and diverts his eyes. 

“Fine! I’ll take you to see the lanterns!”  

Peter practically squeals like a child. “Really!” The spider buzzes excitedly. 

“Yes, yes, really.” 

“I’m so excited!” 

Tony snickers. “I can see. Now, Spidey, will you unwrap me? I think I might be allergic to the scent of your shampoo. All five thousand gallons of it.” 

 

….

 

The sound of Peter’s own pounding heart was all that filled his ears. He wasn’t sure if fifteen-year-olds could have heart attacks, but he was currently wrapped up in a mental battle over if he was suffering from one or not. 

Below him, Tony was already climbing down the tower. Peter had suggested that he just give the man a lift down, but Tony had seemed almost repulsed by the idea of Peter using his own hair as some sort of transportation device. 

So now, Peter stands on the edge of the window sill and leans into the open air, staring down at the ground below. The valley surrounding the tower was lush and full of life, and everything practically glowed with invitation. The world calling to him; beckoning him to flee the solitude and take part in the freedom. 

“You coming, kid?” Tony calls up, sounding agitated.

Peter lets out a long exhale, his hands feeling clammy as they only grip his hair tighter. On his shoulder, he can feel Ned grip his tiny claws into his shirt, and Peter knows that he is ready for take-off. 

Jesus, Peter. Buck up. You made him promise… you’re gonna be fine. 

But, despite his mental discipline, he steals a glance back into the tower. Somehow, it almost looks smaller. Darker. Something not familiar; as if he didn’t spend sixteen years confined to those few walls. 

He takes a breath. Here you go. Finally. 

His eyes screwed shut, and one foot step's into thin air. And then, he’s falling. A scream builds up in his throat at the feeling of being weightless and the sudden plummet, but then the scream of fear turns into joy, and then he’s laughing. 

His eyes pop open just before he hits the ground, and he stops dead in his tracks. Just inches below him was grass. Something that he had always admired, but never touched. It didn’t look painful… 

When his feet touch the ground, that laugh reforms, and he has to restrain from cackling. There was grass touching his skin, and yet, he wasn’t falling over dead. Dirt was staining the bottoms of his soles, but Peter had never felt more alive. He continued to laugh. So far, everything his father had told him was wrong. 

“You okay?” Tony asked, raising an eyebrow at the boy’s sudden joyous outburst. 

“Is the rest of the world like this?” Peter exclaims, spinning and bouncing through the lawn. 

“Like what?” 

“Soft. Safe,” Peter continues to dance around, “Warm?”

Tony chuckles and starts to pick up the hair that is being trailed by his feet. “That would be the sun. But the safety aspect is a little touch-and-go.” 

Peter didn’t seem to hear the last part of his response. “It’s exactly like I dreamed it!” 

“Damn, Kid, you don’t get out much, do you?” 

Peter leans down and picks up the rest of hair, the brown locks easily spilling out of his arms. He has to scoop it all back into his grasp before starting towards the exit. Tony has no choice but to follow. 

“How much hair is this?” Tony asks. 

“Don’t know. Never bother to measure,” Peter says, a smile stretching wide across his face. He didn’t have a feeling that it would be leaving anytime soon. “Would take too long.” 

“Any specific reason why you don’t just cut it?” 

“Nope.” 

“Really?” 

“Yep.” 

Tony chuckles behind him. 

As soon as they have left the hidden valley and are standing in the sprawling forest, the reality of everything finally seems to crash into Peter. He was lucky that he didn’t topple over after that wave. 

“I did it,” he mutters, “I actually did it.” 

“Spidey?” Tony asked, sounding genuinely concerned. 

“I really did it.” 

“Pete--” 

“Father will be furious. He’ll lock me in my room forever. He’ll kill me… oh, god, this will kill him. I have to go back, I have to, I have to! I have to go back, go back, go back…” 

Peter spins around and starts back in the direction of the tower, but Tony puts out a hand and stops him. Peter just looks up at the older man, frightened, tears threatening to spill.

 He can see something stirring in Tony. Hope, maybe? Probably something conniving. But then he gives a little shake of his head, as if the clear his thoughts, and when he looks back Peter, new emotions stir in his irises. 

“Okay, Kid, I realize that the idea of disobeying your dad is probably really scary right now, but you gotta calm down. This can be good, alright? How old are you? Thirteen-- fourteen?” 

“...fifteen and 364 days.” 

“Sure, so like, thirteen or whatever. Anyway, this can be good. A little teenage rebellion, that’s totally normal.” 

“Really?” 

“Of course,” Tony pats Peter’s shoulder. “Hell, in my day, I was sneaking out left and right. Rebellious was my middle name. If anything, your old man will be thanking you for sneaking out. How are you gonna be a well-rounded man like me when you're older if you never followed teenage protocol?” 

Peter smiles, “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Stark.” 

“I always am. Now, are you hungry? I know the perfect little place. Real homemade.” 

“Where?” 

“Oh, don’t worry. Nowhere else around like it.” 

 

….

 

Quentin was already cursing himself. Why would he ever agree to go to a place so far away? Christ almighty, he was out here running Peter’s errands, buying him books from someone who lived three islands away. 

He could already feel his strength diminishing, and it was exhausting to hold himself back and resist running back to the tower, even just for a quick song and brush.  

But he is drawn out of his thoughts by a sudden rustling in the bushes before him, and in a matter of seconds, a huge horse is lunging at him. 

Quentin screams. He jumps back and stares at the creature in shock. 

The horse was much larger than anything he had ever seen, with a blonde mane and a grey coat. The animal was dressed in golden plating, and Quentin noticed the kingdom crest instantly. 

“Oh, a palace horse.” 

But then the thought dawned on him. A palace horse without a rider… 

“Where’s your rider?” 

Quentin was running back in the direction of the tower before he could even process his decision. It wasn’t long before he was tearing into the valley, and breathlessly calling for his son. 

“Peter! Peter, let down your hair! Peter!” 

He was met with no response, and in an act of terror, he ran to the emergency entrance and started tearing down the wall. Brick by brick. Stones upon stones. His hands were cut and bloodied by the end of it, but the pain didn’t even process. 

He climbed the endless staircase until he was pushing up the flooring and entering the living space his son should be currently in. Instead, he was met with silence. An emptiness he hadn’t known in sixteen years. A reality that kept him up at night. 

“Peter!” Quentin screamed, running up the stairs and into the boy’s bedroom, only to find it empty. “Peter! Treasure, where are you! Peter!” 

The man was ready to collapse. He was ready to fall onto the floor and sob. His treasure was gone, and-- 

Something was shining into his eye. He squinted against the new light and looked towards the source. There, under a crack in the bottom stair, something was momentarily blinding him. 

Quentin races over to the stairs, pulling up the step board to reveal a brown, leather satchel. A bag he has never seen before. He opens the flap and pulls out the first thing he finds. A crown. Golden, and decorated in diamond-shaped cuts of crystal, and ornate gems… 

The crown suddenly clatters out of Quentin’s hand as he drops it with a gasp because he knows that crown. That is the crown that was placed on Peter’s head when he was born. The crown that has sat dormant, waiting for Peter when the boy never returns and never gets to wear it again. 

That is the thing waiting to take his son from him.  

Quentin growls as he turns back to the bag, digging in and finding one other thing -- a crumpled wanted poster. The man on it smirks back at him, and Quentin immediately despises everything about him, down to his smug grin and scraggly sole patch. 

He shoves the paperback in the bag. Under his breath, the man chuckles. He was going hunting, and now, he had a new target. 

He was going to get his treasure back is it was the last thing he did.

Chapter Text

“Now, if my internal system is correct -- and it always is -- I would say the place would be somewhere around here,” Tony says as they continue to walk through the forest. 

Peter’s stomach growls in protest, and he tries to hide it as he rolls his eyes. Tony had been saying the place was somewhere around here for the past twenty minutes. 

But, just as he was about to shoot back and snarky comment, they round a bend, and Peter is stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting in front of them is a building that looks like a ramshackle house. The whole building seems to be leaning forward, while the windows vary in sizes, and the door looks two sizes too small in its crooked frame. 

On the front of the building is a hanging sign that sways slightly in the breeze. In lopsided, purple letters it reads: “SHIELD:  homegrown bar and eats”. 

“Aha!” Tony says, gesturing at the restaurant like it was a prized possession. “I knew it!” 

“Shield?” Peter asks, staring at the building skeptically. He was now noticing how many of the windows were completely shattered. 

“Prime dining!” Tony says and starts to push the boy forward. Peter has to scramble to pick up his hair so Tony doesn't step on it. 

As soon as the door swings open, Peter’s stomach drops. Staring back at him is about a dozen or so faces all cast into dim shadow. Half of them give him toothy smiles. The other half sneer in Tony’s direction. 

“We’ll take your biggest table!” Tony announces like he wasn’t meeting face to face with a brood of blood-covered ruffians. 

Now almost everyone was sneering at Tony. 

Tony starts to guide Peter into the bar, but as he stumbles along, Peter shrugs away from the stares of the bar’s tenants. A woman with red hair sharpens a knife in the corner. A giant of a man looms over everyone else, his blonde hair and beard almost coated in grime. A man who looks slightly green stands beside a blonde man who was wearing nothing but a diaper.  

Peter holds his wrench out in front of him like a sword; his hand trembling despite his attempts to calm it.  

“Ah, take it all in, Pete,” Tony says, sounding completely oblivious. “This is a true dining establishment. Five star worthy! Look how busy it is. I can tell by the smell that it is frequented often, and we both know that big business is good business!”

Suddenly, there is a tug at Peter’s head, and he can feel someone touching his hair. 

“That’s a lot of hair,” a deep voice says, and Peter looks back in panic to see the giant man holding a fistful of brown hair in his large fist. 

“I know, he’s got a phobia of scissors or something… won’t let anyone touch it,” Tony explains like he’s an expert on Peter. “Oh my god, hey Kid, come over here and look at this guy’s face! He only has one eye!” 

The giant man must have let go, because Peter suddenly lurches forward and he rushes forward, trying to get away from the leering patrons. 

“Hey, you okay, Spidey?” Tony asks, striding forward, mock concern plastered to his face. “If you’re not feeling well, we might as well call it quits. I mean--” 

Suddenly, Tony was being grabbed around the neck by a muscular man with one metal arm, and shoulder-length, brown hair. “This you?” The man asks, holding out a poster for Tony to see. 

On it is a drawing of Tony, minus the goatee. Instead, he is sporting a hearty pair of sideburns along his cheeks that trail onto his jaw. It was quite unattractive from Peter’s point of view. 

“Ugh. Now they’re just mocking me,” Tony says, his face falling. 

“It’s you alright,” the metal armed man says, “Groot! Go get the guards! We got ourselves a pricey one today!” 

A skinny looking teenager dashes out the door, but then someone else is grabbing onto Tony’s arm, and Peter’s attention is back on the scene in front of him. Tony’s face is turning red as his eyes darted back and forth between the people holding him.  

“I could use the money!” A dark-skinned man shouts in the face of Metal-arm, “Let me turn him in, Bucky!” 

Bucky just tries to yank Tony away from everyone else. “Wilson, back off!” 

“What about me?” A younger woman asks angrily, trying to grab at Tony’s vest. Her red hair hangs around her shoulders like a curtain, but Peter can still see her eyes gleam scarlet in the dim light. “I’m practically broke!” 

“Please stop!” Peter calls out, but it falls on deaf ears. Tony is starting to look panicked. 

“You want money?” Tony chokes out, Bucky’s arm still firmly around his throat. 

“Leave him alone!” Peter practically shouts, “He’s harmless!” 

“Maybe we can work something out,” Tony says, his voice not even over a whisper. 

“Be quiet!” Someone says and out of the corner of his eye, Peter can see a large figure rearing back and getting ready to punch Tony. 

“Not the jaw! Not the jaw! Not the-- urk!” Tony pleads but is cut off when someone pushes Bucky and they both go lilting sideways. 

“Enough of this,” Peter mutters to himself, and out of an act of panic grabs the nearest stool and chucks it as hard as he can towards the mob forming around Bucky and Tony. 

Surprisingly, he throws it pretty far, and the patrons all manage to dodge out of the way before they get hit by the flying furniture. The stool crashes against the bar and breaks into pieces with a loud crash. Now everyone was looking in Peter’s direction. 

“Let him go!” Peter demands, “Look, I am very tired and have no idea where I am, and I won’t ever get to where I need to without his help! Tonight the lanterns fly, and I have been dreaming about seeing them ever since I was small. Come on! Stop being ruffians for just one second and help me out. Don’t any of you know what’s it like to have a dream?”    

Bucky suddenly lets go of Tony, and the man fell to the floor in a coughing fit. Peter was about to run over and help him, when Bucky suddenly steps forward, cutting the boy off. 

“Don’t accuse me of not dreaming, Kid. Because I… I have a dream.” Bucky suddenly runs over to the piano and sits down, playing out a tune before anyone could stop. It was actually quite impressive, and Peter couldn't help but just stand and listen in awe. “I wanted to be a pianist, always have, always will. But I’m not exactly the nicest. Don’t have the most welcoming smile.” 

He finishes his song and turns to look at Peter. “Wanted to be on the stage-- Mozart, Bach, Chopin… anyone, don’t care. Just wanna play.” 

“We all have dreams,” Wilson states, his arms crossed over his chest. “I for one have always enjoyed playing therapist… have a way with people.” 

Peter looks around at the rest of the bar customers looking sheepish. “What about them? You said you all have dreams…” 

“Well,” Wilson smiles just slightly, “Wanda likes to cook. Quill likes to sing. Thor has gotten into knitting. Buck plays the piano, and Rhodey will sometimes play the flute. Scott is developing talent at sleight of hand magic tricks. Strange is into real magic…” 

Wilson goes around the room, pointing out people as he tells their passion. “What are you into, Clint?” 

The blonde guy wearing a diaper jumps up onto a table and starts a pretty terrible tap routine. Peter only notices now that he is wearing a pair of angel wings, and holding a tiny bow and arrow. “I like to dance!” Clint cries out.

The redheaded woman sitting beside him just smiles and shakes her head. 

Suddenly, the man who looks slightly green raises his hand, “I don’t have a particular skill…” he admits shyly, “but I do have a dream. I would just like love. It would be nice to find someone who loved equally, and could accept me because sometimes I put on this alter-ego that I don’t really have control over.” 

Wilson just smiles and pats the man on his shoulder. “That’s alright, Bruce. That sounds like a great dream.” 

“What about you?” Thor asks, looming over Tony like the giant that he is. 

Tony just shakes his head, “Sorry, blondie, I don’t dream. More of a… live in the moment, kinda guy.” 

Thor snarls and Tony backs away, laughing nervously. 

“Kidding, kidding… I actually have a lot of dreams. Always. Constantly. I uh… I dream about… Money.” 

“Money?” A chorus of voices echoes back at him. 

“Money! Precisely! I dream of being rich, and powerful, with a woman on both arms, and clothing in the finest of silks. So they glow in every light! I would be tanned and rested, and completely out of debt or the law’s eye! Now… isn’t that perfect?” 

He is met with a mixture of responses, mostly people grumbling under their breath, but Thor seems happy, so he backs off. 

“So, you’ll let us go?” Peter asks, “So he can take me to the lanterns, and I can fulfill my dream?”  

Wilson nods, “Sounds okay--” 

Suddenly, the door is thrown open, and Groot walks back in, followed by very large men in shiny, golden armor. They are all scowling, and Tony instantly starts shying away into the darkness. 

“Guards…” Rhodey mutters, “shit, where’d the kid go--” 

“Where’s Stark?” A scary man shouts. His eyes glint dangerously under a pair of thick eyebrows. His upper lip snarls and Peter watches the man’s broom-stache wrinkle. 

“Uh, Ross, please just… let’s all calm down,” Wilson runs forward, trying to reason with Ross. 

“Sam, shut it!” Ross shouts in the other man’s face. “I’m not letting anyone off the hook this time! Now, where is Stark?!” 

“He’s not here,” Thor says, his face set into a scowl.  

“I know he is! That twig of a teenager brought us here, and I am not leaving without Stark. Turn the place upside down if you have to!” 

Guards start running through the tavern, flipping tables and interrogating patrons. Peter stares in fear until suddenly, there is an arm around his shoulders, and then he is being yanked to the side. 

Bucky throws both himself and Peter over the bar, where they find Tony already waiting. 

“Stark, what the hell?” Peter asks, trying to keep his voice down. 

Tony shushes the boy aggressively, and the thief’s eyes keep darting back up, worried and frantic.  

Bucky suddenly reaches up and pulls down one of the tap levers on the bartop. A few feet away, a section of the floor opens up and a slope leading into an underground tunnel is revealed. 

“Man, that’s cool,” Peter whispers in awe. 

“Go,” Bucky says, reeling the rest of Peter’s hair over the bar. “Live your dream.” 

“I’ll try to make you proud,” Tony says. 

“Not you, idiot. Your dream sucks. I was talking to him.” 

“Thank you,” Peter says, watching as Tony starts to crawl into the tunnel. 

Bucky smiles, “Of course. Anything.” 

In the background, Peter can hear Ross shouting demands at the other guards, and suddenly there is the sound of a horse whinnying loudly. 

“You must go,” Bucky says, beaconing Peter down.

As soon as Peter has crawled into the tunnel, the floor closes back up, and the last thing he hears is Bucky protesting to Ross before they are encased in silence.  

Chapter Text

Quentin couldn’t have found the tavern faster. The front door was busted off its hinges, and the hanging sign swung back and forth, creaking on rusty chains.

He crept up to one of the lopsided windows and peered inside. The bar was flooded with people; most of them grimy and face’s set in deep scowls, while the others were all dressed in kingdom armor. The guards were all wandering around the tavern, checking behind paintings and under crates, confused and obviously looking for something. 

The more protective part of Quentin hopes that Peter didn’t come here because it looks incredibly dangerous. But the more hopeful part of him wishes that his son did because a place like this would scare the boy straight and send him running back home. 

The guard who seemed in charge seethed in the corner. “Don’t stop searching! I know he’s here somewhere! We get that crown back at any cost!” 

Quentin suddenly noticed a large horse sniffing around the bar like a dog, and he was surprised that he hadn’t seen the animal sooner. 

“Sir, we have looked everywhere,” a smaller guard pleads with the leader. “We are certain that--” 

A loud neighing cuts through the attempted conversation, and everyone turns to look at the horse who is standing near the bar. He seems to throw his blonde mane out of pride. 

“Steven!” Ross exclaims and stares at the horse confused. “What is it?” 

Steven gestures towards the backside of the bar with his muzzle. No one seems to be getting it, and the horse huffed, annoyed. With a nudge, he pushes down one of the tap-levers. With a low groan, a piece of the floor opens up into a dark cavern. 

“Of course!” Ross says, now excited. “Men, how in the seven seas is a horse smarter than all of you combined?” 

The guards just looked at each other for an answer. Ross rolls his eyes. 

“Malarky is what this is. The whole lot of you. Useless.” 

Quentin watches as the guards and the horse all leap over the bar and disappears into the floor. He squints his eyes, but his attention is drawn when a man comes stumbling outside. 

“Oh man,” the man mumbles then burps. He is dressed like a cherub, and a tiny bow and arrow are tucked under his arm. His blonde hair looks ruffled. “Nat should not be letting me drink so much..” 

Suddenly, the cherub catches sight of Quentin, and his whole demeanor changes. He plasters on a grin and leans against the slanted wall. “Damn, do you have radiation poisoning, because baby… you are glowing.”  

Despite the terrible pick-up-line, Quentin plays along, “Oh, darling, stop. I’ll blush.” 

The cherub gives a toothy smile, but at the last second Quentin pulls his knife out of the sheath on his belt, and holds it against the man’s throat. “Where does that passage let out?” 

The angel gulps. “Knife!” 

 

….

 

Light flickers along the cavern walls threateningly and Tony wonders to himself how long these torches have been burning. The floor divots, as if they are walking where an old mine track would have been laid. 

Peter has been silent for the past few minutes, and the lack of conversation is starting to make Tony anxious. Every sound echoes down here, and he can hear water dripping that must have been miles away. 

“So…” he starts, quickly searching for his next words. Peter looks over at him with a quirked brow. “What you did back there… pretty gutsy. Didn’t think you had it in ya.” 

Peter grins so wide, it looks as though it might hurt. “I know! If only my father were there, he would finally see how much I could handle myself.” 

“Right… your father… what’s his deal?” 

Peter chuckles, but it’s deprived of humor. “We shouldn’t talk about him.” 

“No?” 

“Definitely not. He’s not exactly a light topic of conversation.” 

“Okay… so, don’t bring up your father. I know I shouldn’t bring up the hair, either. I also kinda too scared to talk about your pet roach.” 

Peter scoffs. “Ned’s a spider.” 

On his shoulder, Ned makes noise that also sounds like a scoff. The insect shakes it's head disapprovingly.  

Tony smirks, “Spider, roach, cricket… any of them work. All the same. Tomayto, tomahto.” 

“Got any more cliches stored in there?” 

“Millions, kid, but we’re avoiding the real question. If you wanted to see the lanterns this badly… why didn’t you just go before?” 

Peter’s smile suddenly falls, and he seems to shrink into himself. His eyes dart to the ground, panic starting to color his features. “Uhh, well…” 

Suddenly, vibrations start running through the floor, and the rocks decorating the dirt jump up and down as the whole tunnel starts to shake. Tony whips around to see new shadows appearing on the wall, and his heart rises into his throat. 

“Stark!” Ross screams as a whole hoard of guards ran towards him and Peter. 

Without a second thought, Tony grabs Peter’s arm and takes off in the opposite direction. Distantly, he can hear Peter talking to him breathlessly. Questions upon questions falling from the boy’s mouth, but it all goes in Tony’s ear and out the other. 

Blood pumping, heart pounding, he spots a light at the end, and then they are racing into a world flushed with daylight. 

Tony only allows himself a second to adjust, and even that is a second too long. 

They are standing on a cliff at the edge of an abandoned mining site. Cavern walls stretch high above them, and below, is a drop that not even Tony could stomach. For all he knew, they were trapped. 

“Stark!” 

Tony’s head turns to Peter. The boy is staring up at him with frightened eyes. At this exact moment, Tony could see exactly how young Peter was. The man’s heart twisted. 

I should have never gotten you into this, kid, he wants to say. I’m sorry. So sorry. 

But instead, he just stares down at the child. Behind them, the sounds of footsteps in the tunnel are getting louder.  

“Stark, what do we do?” Peter pleads. 

Tony opens his mouth, but no words come out. His eyes darted around the cavern. A few tall pillars of rock; a couple of algae-filled puddles littering the ground below. Nothing that speaks to him. Nothing that would be particularly use-- 

Suddenly, his eyes find salvation. All the way on the other side of the cavern, at the base of one of the walls, is a cave opening that looks no bigger than a pinprick from where he was standing. If they could get into that, they might just find a second tunnel that leads somewhere safer than here. 

“Peter,” Tony says, grabbing the boy by his shoulders. “I have a plan--” 

“Stark!” Ross roars as the entire guard squadron pours out of the tunnel. 

“Who is that?” Peter asked, his voice breaking. 

“Someone who hates me,” Tony says. 

Then, in a matter of seconds, two other figures are jumping from the top of a cavern wall and landing on the cliff alongside the guards. Obie and Toomes sneer at Tony. 

“Who are they?” Peter says, his body shaking in Tony’s grasp. 

“They hate me, too.” 

And finally, a loud neighing rings out above it all, and the horse from earlier barrels through the crowd like a ball bowling over pins. The animal snarls, totally un-horse-like in nature, and Tony takes a timid step backward. 

“I assume he hates you, too,” Peter mutters. 

Tony just nods. 

They had them cornered. Unless they were going to take a leap to their deaths, Tony knew they would have to hand themselves over to the guard, unless Obie and Toomes got to him first. Either way, he wouldn’t be walking out of here. Period. 

In a sudden act of courage that Peter hadn’t showcased before, he shoves his wrench into Tony’s chest and says, “Take this.” 

Tony grabs the tool quickly, and instantly holds it out in front of him in a way that should have looked threatening. Almost everyone else draws a weapon of their own in response. Someone even hands the horse a shield. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Tony notices Peter reeling in his hair and holding it like a lasso. He swings it a few quick times before throwing it in a wide arch. But Ross starts advancing on Tony before he even has a chance to see if Peter had successfully anchored his hair on anything. 

“I've been waiting a long time for this,” Ross says with the faintest hint of a laugh. 

He lunges, his sword immediately making contact with Tony’s wrench as the thief cringed back. Ross swings once more, and Tony blocks once again. 

Ross just growls, but in return, Tony actually laughs. They jump into a full-on sword fight; the rest of the so-called brave battalion standing back and watching as their fearless leader battles a crook. 

One moment, Tony is holding off Ross’s sword with his wrench, the next, Ross has slipped off the edge of the cliff and rolls down into the cavern below. His men all cry after him in panic and take their own trips off the cliff to save their captain. 

Tony doesn't get much time to savor in his victory, though, because the horse suddenly jumps on him and starts attacking with the silver shield he has been given. Tony starts to fight back, practically cackling the whole time. 

But suddenly, Toomes jumps on the horse’s back, and the creature rears back, neighing loudly in protest. Obie advances on Tony, but there is a now an arm wrapped around Tony’s waist, and in the blink of an eye, he is being swung from the cliff face and down into the cavern.

Tony can’t help the scream that rises up from his chest. 

He tumbles onto the ground as soon as his boots make contact with dirt. Peter stands beside him, pulling all of his hair into his arms as he prepares to make a run for it. 

“You can thank me later,” the boy says, catching Tony staring at him. “We gotta go. Those guys aren't dead yet.” 

Tony pushes himself to his feet, keeping pace with Peter as he realizes that the boy is running towards that cave Tony spotted earlier. It looks a whole lot bigger now. 

And then, the ground is shaking. It’s a lot more forceful than when the tunnel shook earlier, but not any less alarming. While keeping stride, Tony steals a glance behind them and realizes with wide eyes what is about to happen.  

Under the cliff where they originally entered, there is a dam. Behind that dam is thousands and thousands of gallons of water. Ross is still standing, and he and his men are currently breaking that dam down. 

They’re gonna flood us out, Tony thinks in panic. 

“Run!” Tony shouts at Peter, “run faster!” 

Peter didn’t need to be told twice. 

They are so close to the mouth of the cave when Tony feels it. The dam breaks and the cavern floods with water, taking out anyone close to it. 

Tony’s heart is in his mouth; he knows they are next. 

“In here!” Peter screams over the waves behind them. He and Tony both dive headfirst into a cave, just as the water knocks over the closest rocky pillar, and the entrance is now blocked. 

Water streams in steadily, but for the most part, they are standing in complete darkness. Peter runs to the farthest corner and starts trying to chip away at the wall with his wrench. Tony didn’t even know when he took that back. 

Tony’s boots were wet, and with alarm, he realized that it was now almost up to mid-shin. He sloshes over and helps to dig at the walls. 

Beside him, he can hear it as Peter holds back sobs, choking on his own breath as he uselessly scrapes the stone. Tony’s heart practically shatters. 

“I’m sorry, Peter,” he says. Peter continues to scrape. “If I knew this was where we’d end up… I never would have agreed to drag you into this.” 

Peter suppresses another sob. His wrench hits the rock, sounding like it was taking more damage than it was making. The water was at their thighs now. 

“Peter,” Tony says. 

No response.

“Peter. Peter, listen to me.” 

“No!” Peter sobs. 

“Peter, listen!” Tony grabs the child’s shoulders, and the boy doesn't fight it. 

“This is all my fault,” Peter cries. “I should have listened to him… if I didn’t disobey… I’m so sorry, Stark.”  

Water up to their waists. 

“Tony.” 

“Huh?” 

Up to their navels. 

“My name is Tony Stark.” Chests. “You should know.” 

Peter actually giggles, “I have magic hair that glows when I sing.” 

Tony finds his eyebrows narrowing. “What?” 

Peter gasps. “I have magic hair that glows when I sing!” 

Up to their necks. 

The child starts to sing. “Magic gleam and glow, let your power known. Let them all see--” 

The water fills the cave now, and Tony gets one big gulp of air before they are completely submerged. At first, he thinks the kid was full of shit and just said some white-lie to make himself look cool in his last moments, but then the water was filled with silver light. 

Tony actually swam away from Peter out of freight. 

But then he saw it. A part of the cave that had been obviously covered to look closed up, but with Tony’s expert eye, he could spot an escape anywhere. 

He sawm down and started digging, Peter not far behind. His hands ached, and his lungs screamed for air, but preservation coursed through his veins, and he powered through. The last thing he saw was a faint light peaking through the rocks, and then, darkness met him with cool relief.

Chapter Text

Peter tumbled into the lake like a bird diving headfirst through clouds. The first thing he noticed was how cold this new water was. The second thing was the sunlight trying to break through his closed eyelids. 

The third thing was his lungs screeching for air. It was hard, but with a few harsh pulls, his head surfaced and he breathed in greedily. His eyes finally popped open, and with slightly blurred vision, he spots the bank nearby. 

As he swims closer and closer, he sees a body already laying on the grass. 

“Tony!” Peter croaks and paddles faster. 

The boy heaves himself onto dry land, his hair becoming dead weight behind him as it is now completely clogged with water. He falls to Tony’s side, which was a much easier task then he would have wished. His whole body felt like dead weight. 

“Tony,” Peter says, shaking the man. “Tony!” 

Peter grabs both of Tony’s shoulders with a tight grip and continues to shake with all his might. After jolting the man back and forth a few times, Tony coughs violently and Peter lets go out of surprise. 

“Oh my god, Tony!” Peter cries out as Tony turns to the side and coughs out lake water. “Are-- are you okay?” 

“Kid?” Tony asked, turning back to look at Peter. The thief’s eyes were foggy. 

“Lord,” Peter says, breathing a sigh of relief. “I had no idea if that would work.”   

“Know if what worked?” Tony asked groggily. 

“Nothing, I'm just glad you’re okay.” 

“Yeah, fit as a fiddle.” 

Tony pushes himself up by his elbows and stares at Peter. Peter’s neck was definitely feeling the strain as his hair pulled at the roots of his scalp, and half of it was still floating in the water. 

“Come on,” Tony says, standing and walking towards the water’s edge. “I’ll help with that.” 

The older man starts reeling in Peter’s hair, collecting it in his arms and bringing it back over to join the rest. 

“I can see why you don’t want to cut it,” Tony said with a slight smile. “The glowing thing was a surprise.” 

“What? You've never seen that before?” Peter asks with a smirk. 

Tony just chuckles, but when he sees Peter yawn and the boy’s smile drop, he stills. 

“Hey, you okay, Pete?” 

Peter looks up, but the strain on his neck is tiring. “Yeah, just tired. My hair’s never been this wet before. Starting to hurt my neck.” 

Tony nods. “I can help you out. Come on, let’s get dry.” 

“Thanks,” Peter says and stands. They both start to move towards the forest before them. “Once we’ve done that, I’ll show you the other stuff it can do.” 

Tony looks to him with wide eyes. “There’s more?” 

“You don’t even know the half of it.” 

 

….

 

Quentin watches the manhole cover anxiously. On the other side were his son and the thief who stole him away from his home. Quentin clutches his dagger tightly under his cloak, his gaze never wavering. 

Suddenly, the hatch starts to move, and his heart skips a beat. With one final push, the cover flips open, and the sounds of deep coughing fill the forest. Quentin moves forward swiftly, his eyes narrowed, when he stops dead in his tracks. 

That wasn’t Peter climbing out of the tunnel. 

Two large and very damp men clamber onto solid ground, both hacking water from their lungs. 

“I’ll kill him!” The taller one shouts at the other. “He’s a dead man!” 

“How did he escape?” The shorter man asks.

“Don’t know, don’t care. He’s got the crown. Until we have it, he’s dead,” the tall one spits. “Even after we have it. He’s over.” 

The satchel hanging off of Quentin’s shoulder grows heavy. They wanted the same man that he did. They wanted the crown that he had in possession. 

“Oh boys,” Quentin sweeps out from his hiding place, obviously taking the other two by surprise. Quentin pulls the shoulder bag out from under his cloak, and both of the men jump into defense mode. Quentin scoffs, “Put the knives away. It’s all yours.” 

He throws the satchel onto the ground at their feet and they both scramble to pick it up. The smaller one gets it first, and he pulls out the crown, only for both of them to break out into cracked grins. 

“Well, if that’s all you want,” Quentin starts, his plan forming as he speaks, “then run along on your merry way. I do have something in mind that could provide you with more riches then the world possesses, but whatever. If that’s all you want, I’ll just be moving along. Have fun with your jewels!” 

Quentin turns and starts to walk away, but when a voice grumbles after him, he stops. 

“Wait! What’s this other thing?” 

Quentin spins on his heel, cape billowing out behind him. “It comes with the revenge you are seeking.” 

Both of the men just grin maliciously, and Quentin can tell they’re on board before the words leave their mouths. 

 

….

 

 “Would you mind telling me how this helps?” Tony asks as Peter wraps his hair around the man’s palm. 

Peter looks up quickly, startled out of his concentrated silence. He tucks his tongue back into his mouth, as he stuck it out as he normally does when working steadily. 

“Oh, sorry,” Peter says. 

“Don’t apologize, just explain. You’re being weirdly cryptic--” Tony cuts himself off with a wince when Peter pulls tightly. 

“Sorry,” Peter says quickly. Tony’s hand was cut from digging out of the cave, and Peter knew that if he didn’t take care of soon, the wound would become infected. 

Tony rolls his eyes. “Kid, really, stop with the sorry’s.” 

“Right, uh--” Peter stops himself before saying the word and shakes his head slightly. “I, uh, just… don’t freak out.” 

Tony stares at him, slightly exasperated. “This still doesn't explain anything.” 

Peter takes Tony’s wrapped hand in his grasp and takes a deep breath. The only person to hear him sing was his Father, and he didn’t really think that singing in the cave counted, since he was cut off by a lung full of water. 

So now, he tried to push past nerves and just try to concentrate on how Tony needed his help. “ Magic, gleam and glow, let your power known. Let them all now see, just how strong I can be. Strengthen what has broke, change the fates' design…” 

He knew that his hair was quickly lighting up and casting the world around them in a silver glow. He could feel the magic coursing up his spine and gathering in the back of his mind, warm and static. A feeling that he has grown used to, and can associate with the word, Home. 

“..Make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine. Give what should belong, bring back what once was mine.” 

He can feel it as Tony tenses in his grasp, and as the boy opens his eyes, he can see how rigid the thief has become. Tony’s eyes are wide as he unwraps the hair from his hand and he sees how his hand looks flawless. Probably better than it looked before. 

“Don’t scream!” Peter pleads, leaning forward. 

Tony just shakes his head. “Who’s screaming? Not me. I… I now understand what you meant about your hair being able to do cool shit.” 

Peter just laughs under his breath and shrugs. 

“Thanks,” Tony says softer. “Um, how long have you been able to heal people for?” 

Peter stares at his lap for a moment, before saying, “My whole life, I guess. When… when I was a baby, Father told me that people tried to cut it and sell it. Apparently it’s actually worth something to people other than Father. But when you cut it, it curls up and loses its power. Father wanted to protect me… to make sure no one would find out about its power, so… that’s why I live in that tower. Why I never… Why I--” 

“--Never left and went outside,” Tony finishes for him. 

Peter nods and wipes quickly at a stray tear rolling down his cheek. “You got it.” 

If Tony noticed that he was crying, he didn’t mention it. “Do, do you think you’re gonna go back?” 

Peter shakes his head. “Don’t know. I don’t know much more than those walls. It’s complicated.” The boy brushes his bangs back from his eyes and tucks the locks behind his ear. “So… your real name is, Tony, huh?” 

Now it was Tony’s turn to look at his knees. “Uh, yeah. Anthony, if you wanna get technical with it. I guess I have a problem with feelings… or commitment… or something along those lines. But, I just don’t like getting close to people, so I always go by my last name: Stark.” 

“But you told me your real name. Does that mean you think I’m cool?” Peter scooted closer to Tony. 

Tony pushed him away. “Hey, Spidey, “cool” might be pushing it. Hold your horses.” 

Tony took a deep breath, “Well, my father, he wasn’t the nicest. He wasn’t anything like your old man if you want to look at it that way. I… I got out of my house as soon as I could, and, I don’t know… turned to a life of rebellion. I guess I never got enough of the thrill when I was a teenager.” 

“What about now?” Peter asks, “Your father, do you get along now?”

“My parents are dead, Pete.” 

Peter’s expression shifts and Tony can see him try to hide the shock. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” 

Tony shrugs, but it’s half-hearted. “It’s okay, Kid, really. I-- I think I said good-bye to them a long time ago.” 

Peter puts his hand on Tony’s knee, “You got me now.” 

There is something in Tony’s eyes that Peter hadn’t seen before. They glow in the firelight, bright and thick with adoration. Suddenly, he gives a wet chuckle and shakes his head. 

“Wow, well this has become incredibly sappy, so…” he stands, “firewood? I’m gonna go get firewood.” 

The man walks away before Peter could say anything in return. 

“Thank god!” A new voice suddenly announces behind Peter, shocking the boy. “That was getting too sappy for my taste, as well!” 

Peter spins around to see his father standing in the darkness, the firelight barely illuminating his features. In the tree line, he stood tall like a creature Peter would be warned away from. 

“Father!” Peter exclaims, almost falling off the log in surprise. 

“Treasure!” Quentin rushes forward, taking Peter’s face in his large hands. “My lovely, precious Treasure. I thought you had been stolen from me!” 

“How did you find me?” Peter asks, his cheeks getting squished uncomfortably. 

“Oh, Petey, it was easy,” Quentin let’s go of his son’s face, leaving Peter to run at his red skin. “Fatherly instinct called and I answered. Couldn’t let the light of life run off galavanting through the forest, especially since you were probably scared to your wits end!” 

Peter thought his father was being overdramatic, but he was more worried about Tony coming back and seeing them. Who knows what Quentin would do if he knew that Tony took his son. 

“...Father,” Peter says, now starting to plead. “Just listen--” 

“We’re going home, Peter.” Quentin’s voice is hard, and he grabs onto the boy’s arm tightly. With a strong yank, he is pulling his son onto unsteady feet and dragging him towards the treeline. 

Peter can help the pained yelp that escapes, and he wants to call out. He wants to yell for Tony to save him, but he’s not a child; he can do this on his own. 

“Father, stop. You don’t understand. I-- I can go do this. I’m sixteen now. I’m not a child.” 

Quentin lets go when Peter pulls hard enough to hurt himself, and the man frowns. “Oh, right, you’re sixteen. A big boy. How rude of me to forget your gift! If only raising you, and sacrificing my own life to protect yours wasn’t enough of a present.” His scowl is terrifying. “We’re leaving. Now.”

“But, no!” Peter backs away from his father, and Quentin stares at him with wide eyes. “This guy… he needs me as much as I need him. You can’t always get your way. I’m going.” 

Quentin’s eyes were so wide that if they could fall out of his skull, they would. He takes a long, overdramatic inhale. 

“So! I see how this is… I guess Peter is the one who’s so brave and mature now! Peter knows best. Peter speaks the truth! If you’re so sure, then give your new friend this!” 

Quentin pulls out the satchel and recognition falls over Peter’s face. 

“How…” Peter’s voice trails. 

“He doesn't want anything more than this,” Quentin sneers, “give him this, and he’ll be gone.” 

“You’re wrong!” 

“Let’s see! Here, it’s yours!” Quentin throws the bag at Peter, and the boy fumbles before catching it. 

“I trust him!” Peter says, gripping the bag tightly. 

“I trusted you!” Quentin shouts, and Peter can’t help but look taken-aback. “I must’ve been wrong, though.”

Peter just stares at his father. 

“Give him the satchel… watch how fast he goes running,” Quentin leans in close before saying, “and if I’m right, don’t come back crying. Remember, Peter, I know best.”   

The last thing Peter sees of his father is the man’s stone-cold eyes before he is spinning and running into the darkness in a flurry of cloak. 

The boy stands there, staring at the spot where he disappeared when Tony comes back. 

“Hey, I know you said that people tried to kidnap you, but have you ever thought about taking that healing trick into the medical field? Might be something of an innovation, if I do say so… hey, you okay?” 

Peter turns and tries to plaster on a smile. “Yep. Just… thinking. You were talking about medicine?”  

Tony places down the firewood. “Eh, doesn't really matter now. Besides, it might be kinda cool to keep it for ourselves… do you think if we use it enough we’ll become superheroes? Because, damn, that would be awesome.” 

Peter chuckles, “You know, I think I like Tony a whole lot better than, Stark.” 

“Really? Well, you’d be the first.” 

Peter smiles, sitting back down on the log. He makes sure to kick the satchel behind a big rock when Tony is preoccupied with the kindling. The treeline behind him feels daunting, and he can’t help but know that someone is in there, watching them. 

Ned crawls out from the boy’s hair and rests on his shoulder. “Hey, buddy.” 

“Oh, the roach is back,” Tony said with a smile, “thought we lost him for good in the lake. But, there he is. What a little trooper.” 

Ned just beeps, sounding disgruntled. Peter stares into the fire, the itch of his father’s lingering stare from the darkness behind burning him more than any flame ever could.

Chapter Text

Tony woke to the feeling of water being dripped onto his nose, and for a moment, he is transported back to that cave; the walls closing in on him and water creeping its way up to his nostrils until he can’t catch his breath any longer. Panic fills his chest, but his hand reaches up to bat at the steady dripping, and behind closed eyelids, he realizes he’s safe. 

His eyes pry open, and he comes face to face with that horrible guard horse form before. But even that doesn't set him off; as long as he’s not back in that cave, Tony would face Ross if forced to. 

A horse is nothing. 

“Oh, hello,” Tony says before a yawn. “Would you mind moving?” 

The horse huffs and snaps it’s perfect teeth. Tony tries to ignore it, wondering how much damage a horse can really do, but then the animal cranes it’s neck and bites down on Tony’s ankle. 

The man shouts out in surprise, and the horse starts to pull Tony back towards the water. He had no idea what it’s intention was with him once he got him into the lake, but he didn’t allow too much thought on the matter. 

Instead, Tony claws at the ground frantically, rooting his fingers into the soil and engaging in a game of tug of war between him and this horse. The animal now had his boot clamped firmly between its teeth, and didn’t show any intent on letting go soon. 

Tony just screams louder. 

Peter jumps up from where he was sleeping on the ground and looked around in panic. “Woah, Woah, Woah!” The boy yells, running towards Tony and the steed. “Let go! Let go!” 

The horse looked over at Peter in confusion, but he stopped his tugging. 

“That’s it,” Peter says, easing his voice. “Now, please, can you drop my friend?” 

The horse huffs but refuses to drop his grip. Tony rolled his eyes. You’re talking to a horse, Kid. 

“Please,” Peter asked, sounding like he was using his puppy dog eyes. “Please? Be a good boy and drop the man? Please?”  

Tony felt it when his foot was released as half of his body went slamming down onto the grass. He groaned only slightly because then he was watching Peter pet a horse. 

“This was all you wanted, right?” Peter asked, scratching behind the animal’s ears. “You just needed some love.” 

The horse tossed his blonde mane and snorted happily. 

“Isn’t that right,” Peter looked at the breast collar the steed wore. “Steven. What a wonderful name… I think I’m gonna call you, Steve.” 

Tony got to his feet. “I think I’m gonna call him a bad horse.” 

Steve’s eyes narrowed. Tony was still dumbfounded by the fact that Steve obviously understood everything they were saying. But, then again, he was traveling with a boy who had magic hair and a pet robot-cricket. 

Peter immediately picked up on the glares the other two were sending each other’s way, and he stepped between them. “Look, today is kinda huge for me, so, if you two could just tolerate each other for twenty-four hours… that would be perfect, okay? It’s my birthday. Tomorrow, you can play tug-of-war as much you want. Alright?” 

Tony continued to glare at Steve, but he nodded stiffly. “Fine.” 

Steve didn’t say anything. 

 

----

 

Peter had some expectations for the kingdom, but that didn’t help his jaw from dropping when he finally caught sight of it. He was completely speechless. 

He didn’t both to pick up his hair as he bounded as quickly as he could across the stone bridge and towards the island. The sun beamed down, and distantly, he could hear the sounds of music drifting through the air. 

Tony and Steve shuffled along behind him. 

When he entered the kingdom limits, he was immediately surrounded by people. The city seemed to be throwing some magnificent festival, and Peter was loving every second of it. 

A child ran by him, and Peter watched as the little boy knelt in front of a huge mural on a wall close by. A man and woman were depicted in the painting -- both standing tall and regal. Both also incredibly beautiful. 

In the woman’s arms was a tiny baby. He had long, wavy brown hair, and wore a piece of jewelry on his head that looked far too big. Despite it all though, they all looked happy. 

The child placed a small flower in front of the mural and said, “For the lost prince.” 

Peter was about to go over and ask what he was doing when a particularly hard tug on his scalp has him reeling back and yelping. He looked back and saw people obviously stepping all over his hair. Tony immediately lunged forward and started picking it all up, his arms quickly filling. 

The thief looks around for a split second before smiling. “Hey, kids!” He calls, catching the attention of a group of small girls. “I got a challenge for you!” 

Soon enough, Peter is sitting on the cobblestone while five children run around him, braiding his hair and immediately lessening the weight. They also insisted on braiding leaves into his locks, each one rich and a bright orange or red in color.   

Peter thanked the children, and then they were off. 

“Now that you’re free from your hair prison,” Tony wraps an arm around Peter’s shoulders, “it’s time that I showed you what this festival is really about.” 

They spent the next several hours running around the city, dancing to the music; eating amazing food; exploring the massive buildings, admiring the architecture. Tony even shows Peter the library and pulls out every text he could find that might interest the boy. They spent at least three hours hiding away and reading. 

And before he knew it, the sun was setting and Tony was guiding Peter towards the water. 

“What is this, Tony?” Peter asks. 

“Best day of your life. Thought I might give you the best seat they offer.” 

Tony gestures to a rowboat tied close by. Together, they climb inside and start rowing towards the center of the lake. Behind them on the dock, Steve whinnies. 

“Here, fetch, Bad Horse,” Tony says with a grin. He throws an apple onto the dock. It lands at the horse’s feet. When he doesn't make a move to eat it, Tony says, “If you’re worried about it being stolen, don’t be, Cap!” 

Steve still glares at Tony but eats it anyway. 

“Besides,” Tony says, leaning in so only Peter could hear him, “he already ate all the stolen ones.” 

“You’re calling him, Cap, now?” Peter asks, obviously finding it amusing. 

“Yeah, why not. He’s kinda like a… horse captain, I guess. Cap suits him.” 

It’s silent until Tony stops the boat. And then they are just sitting in wait. The water around them is as smooth as glass, and Peter leans over to stare at his reflection. His sudden movements cause the boat to shake, the surface ripples slightly around them. The version of himself that stares back is warped. 

Peter frowns. 

“You okay, Kid?” 

Peter sighs and turns to look at Tony. “My father was wrong about everything in the world… I am just worried about how this is going to turn out. I’ve wanted it for forever; but, what if he is right? What if it isn’t what I hoped it would be?” 

“It’s gonna.” 

“You say that.” 

“Kid, I know that. It’s gonna be perfect.” 

Peter sighs again. “What do I do if it is?” 

Tony smiles slightly, “I guess that’s the fun thing. You get to find a new dream.” 

“Which is?” 

“You get the rest of your life to figure it out.” 

Peter’s eyes fall on the water, which is when he notices the reflections mirrored around them. His head whips up to see the first two lanterns floating through the air, and his breath catches in his throat. 

He knows what comes next. 

The air is suddenly flooded with hundreds upon hundreds of lights. The world glows. Peter feels content. Happy. His dream has come true; it’s everything he’s ever hoped for. 

“For you,” Tony says softly, and Peter turns to see him holding two lanterns of his own. 

Peter makes sure to hang on tightly when Tony passes him one, and the paper feels warm as it flickers in his hands. 

“At long last you see it,” Tony says, the smile audible in his voice as he watches the world around them. 

“At last I see the light,” Peter’s eyes stare unblinking at his own lantern, his voice barely a whisper. 

Tony gives a small snort. “That was kinda cheesy, Pete.” 

Peter just smiles. This is it. Everything that has been building for sixteen years finally crescendoes in this wonderful moment. 

“On three,” Tony says, “one… two… three.” 

They both let their lights go, the lanterns floating into the sky looking as effortless as taking a breath. Peter watches them until he can’t tell them apart from any of the others. The world around the glimmers. 

He watches for what feels like hours, even though it can’t be longer than ten minutes. 

“Thank you,” he breathes out, “so, so much.” 

“My honor, Pete.” 

Peter suddenly remembers something. “Oh!” He bounces in his seat and turns to grab what he’s been hiding. The satchel. “This is for you!” 

Peter holds out the bag for Tony, and the man stares at it, stunned. 

“Pete,” Tony says, his tone breathless. 

“Just take it,” Peter says, “it’s been a real pain to hide.” 

Tony chuckles and takes the bag gently as if it might shatter in his grasp. Quickly, he checks inside, and Peter can see the recognition when he notices the jeweled headpiece is still inside. 

“Thank you,” Tony says, smiling. “Really.” 

“Of course. It was yours anyway. It was rude of me to take it.” 

“This wasn’t part of the deal. I’m supposed to take you back.” 

Peter nods, “But I know you still will. You won’t let anything happen to me, just like I won’t let anything happen to you. That’s what families do.”  

Tony takes a deep breath, then says, “Come here, Kid.” 

He opens his arms, and Peter accepts the hug instantly. Around them, the world of light ever so slowly fades away, but the warmth surrounding the boat lasts. 

But Peter can feel it when Tony suddenly grows tense in his embrace. “Tony?” Peter asks, pulling back. He notices Tony staring off into the distance, and Peter follows his gaze towards the land behind them. 

Standing on the beach are two figures basked in green light from their lantern. They seem to be staring right in their direction. 

“Tony?” Peter asks, looking back and seeming to snap Tony out of his trance. “Everything alright?” 

“Of course,” Tony says still sounding distracted. “I just gotta… take care of something.” 

And before Peter can object, Tony is rowing them towards land, a bad feeling sinking in Peter’s gut.

Chapter Text

“Tony is--” 

The bottom of the boat scrapes along rocky ground, and Tony lets go of the oars. Peter looks around and Tony recognizes the fright flooding the boy’s eyes. Peter’s hands play with the fabric of his deep blue pants nervously. 

“Tony,” he says again, “Is everything okay?” 

Tony reaches forward and grabs hold of Peter’s hands before he rips a hole in his knee. “Pete, everything is okay. Alright?” 

“I just--” 

“Trust me, okay? Everything is fine.” 

Peter’s eyes stare into Tony’s for a long minute before he nods. “Okay.” 

Tony hops out of the boat; his boots crunching on loose stone. “I just… I have something that needs taking care of. I’ll be right back.” 

Peter tries to smile, but Tony can see how blatantly fake it is, and the expression breaks his heart just a little. It’s his birthday, Tony, and you’re ruining it. He can tell you’re lying. He’s upset that you ruined his dream experience. 

“I’m sorry,” Tony says, trying to put every ounce of sincerity he has in those two words. 

Peter nods, that fake smile still in place, and Tony runs off, trying to hide his grimace. 

As soon as Tony has rounded the corner, Obie and Toomes come into view. The two bigger men look even more menacing cast into half-shadow, and Tony tries to look as cheerful as he could. 

“Hey guys, long time, no see, huh?” Tony saunters in, ignoring the snarls he gets in response. “You would not believe how hard I searched for you guys after we got separated. It was lucky we saw each other in that cavern, huh? But then the dam broke, and… well, good to see you’re still standing.” 

Toomes just glares at him. When Obie starts to walk closer, Tony tries his best not to shrink in on himself. Instead, his feet just slowly shuffle backward. 

“Um, I just wanted to give you guys this,” Tony pulls the satchel off of his shoulder and throws it at Toomes’ feet. The man hardly even gives it a glance. “You know, no hard feelings… for anything. At all. Now… if you'll excuse me, I’ll--” 

“Holding out on us again, eh, Stark?” Obie asks, his fist grabbing onto Tony’s shirt and lifting so Tony’s toes are just skimming the ground. 

Tony can feel it as Obie’s grip starts to choke him, and he clasps his hands onto the man’s thick wrist, trying desperately to get some leverage in this situation. 

“What are you talking about?” Tony asked, his voice smaller than he would have liked.  

“We were told you were in possession of something… better than a crown,” Toomes walks closer to Obie, his fists balling up dangerously. “We want the boy.” 

Tony’s eyes widen and he tries to pull out of Obie’s grip with all his might, his body thrashing through the air. “Peter!” He starts to call, “Peter, run! Peter--” 

A sudden pain shooting through his skull has him clamping his mouth shut, and then the world flickers into darkness. 

 

----

 

Ned has been beeping uncertainty on Peter’s shoulder for the past two minutes. 

“It’s okay, Ned,” Peter says, trying to hide the tremor in his voice. “He’ll be back. He said he would.” 

Ned falls into silence, but the lack of noise only causes Peter’s stomach to roll nervously. Finally, a large figure emerges from the shadows, and Peter lets out a sigh of relief. 

“Thank god,” he says, breaking into a smile. “It’s stupid, but I was starting to think you ran away.” 

The silhouette suddenly parts and becomes two people. The closer they get, the bigger they are, Peter knows by their builds that they definitely aren't Tony. 

“That might not be as stupid as you think,” the first man says, and Peter recognizes them as the scary crooks from the cavern. The first one was tall and bald, while the second had grey hair sprouting out around his ears, and was shorter than his friend. 

“What are you saying?” Peter asks, inching backward as they advance. 

“Your friend is gone for good,” the second one says. 

Peter’s heart plummets. “What?” His voice is barely over a squeak. 

“See for yourself.” 

They gesture towards the open water, and Peter hesitantly turns his attention towards a small boat sailing back to the kingdom. At first, Peter doesn't see anything particularly odd about the ship, but when he squints, he notices the figure at the steering wheel. 

When he notices that it’s Tony, Peter feels as though he may be sick. 

“No,” he mumbled, tears pricking his eyes. “Tony!” 

“It seems like a fair trade,” the first guy says, smirking, “he gets the crown… we get the boy with magic hair.” 

The man lunges towards Peter, and with a yelp, the boy tumbles out of the boat and onto solid land. It takes him a second, but Peter rushes to his feet and starts running in the other direction. He can hear it when the men jump the rowboat and give chase, but he doesn't allow his head to turn and divert attention. He just keeps running. 

That is until his hair catches on something sharp, and he feels his head being pulled back. “Ow!” he cries and tries to pull it free. It is pretty well tangled, and that’s when the tears start to pour, clouding his vision. 

“No, no, no,” he mutters in desperation. 

The sudden sounds of grunting and shouting have Peter pausing, and then turning the corner comes his father. Cape flapping behind the man as he runs towards his son. 

“Peter!” Quentin calls, closing in on his boy, “Oh, Peter!” 

“Father?” 

“Treasure, thank God--” Quentin pulls Peter in his arms, hugging tightly. “I was so worried. I saw them try and grab you, and… oh, are you alright?” 

Peter pulls back, and Quentin takes the boy’s face in his hands, wiping at the falling tears. 

“You were right, Father. Everything you said was right.” 

“Of course it was, Treasure. Now, come on. Let’s go, before they wake up.” 

“I’m sorry. I am.” 

Quentin smiles tightly. “Of course you are.” 

 

----

 

Sound returns first, and then light. Tony groans as his head throbs, and he tries to rub his temple, but his hands won't move. In a spike of panic, he pries his eyes open to see that he is standing on a small ship, and he realizes that he is tied to the steering wheel. 

“What?” Tony says, his voice is groggy. 

He tries to pull his hands free, but his movements are lethargic, and he can feel his skin being rubbed raw from the ropes. That’s when he notices that the crown is tied to his hand, and he is inching closer and closer towards the kingdom. Onshore, the images of patrolling guards have his heart hammering, and he only pulls harder. 

The boat bumps against the docks as it reaches land, and the noise alerts the guards. 

“Hey!” A deep voice shouts. “He has the crown!” 

The shouting that rises up causes Tony’s head to swim, and he suddenly remembers how he got into this whole mess in the first place. 

“Oh no,” he mutters, his body finally giving in to the rope's restrictions. “Peter! Peter! Pete--” 

The guards board his ship and someone grabs at his arms. Tony couldn’t care. 

“Guys, guys! Hey, hey, hey! I need to-- Peter! Peter! We need to save him… Peter!”  

 

----

 

“And that is…” Quentin pulls the last leaf from Peter’s hair and a wavy strand falls into the boy’s face. “The last of it.”

Quentin slips off the bed and makes for the door before he stops. Peter’s eyes stay trained on his lap, one of the leaf’s hidden under his hands from his father's eyes. He can see a red-tinted edge poking out between his fingers, and tries to hide it before Quentin can confiscate his prize. 

“Treasure,” Quentin says, sounding genuine. “I really did try to warn you. Tell you about what was really out there. The world is dark, and crass, and cruel. It if finds even the slightest ray of sunlight, it destroys it.” 

The biting tone in those last few words makes Peter wince, and Quentin obviously ignores his son’s actions. 

“Now, wash up,” the man says, seeming to switch into a whole new personality. “I’m making soup for supper. Your favorite. Don’t be too long.” 

Quentin waltzes from the room, taking the staircase down in stride and leaving Peter in silence. The boy sighs and falls back onto his bed, the maple leaf carefully sitting in his open palm. 

He blinks up at the ceiling. Millions upon millions painted stars stare back at him -- each one slightly faded and cracked with the tower’s plaster. His father painted those up there for him when he was a child, but they had always provided some form of comfort to the boy, so Peter had decided that he would let them stay. 

Downstairs in the kitchen, he can hear pots and spoons clanking as Quentin prepares dinner. Peter allows himself to start to tune out all the noise, just focusing on the ceiling above, and soon that isn’t even enough to keep him awake. 

Before he knew it, he was sleeping fitfully. 

“Hey, Kid.” 

Peter spins around to find himself face to face with Tony. The man smiles down at the boy, and Peter can’t help but feel a mixture of relief and hatred. Tony didn’t look mad at all -- in fact, he actually looked kinda sad. The smile he gave was flooded with sorrow. 

“Tony,” Peter whispers. “You’re here.” 

“I know.” 

“But you left.” 

“I know that, as well.” 

Peter can feel the tears welling up in his eyes, but he tries to hold them back. He wants to be mad at Tony. He wants to yell at him for leaving him; for trying to sell him to crooks. For doing the exact opposite of what he said he would. 

“The new hair looks good on you, Pete,” Tony suddenly says, reaching up and brushing back a curl behind Peter’s ear. 

Peter’s eyebrows scrunched up in confusion, and when he shoots a look over his shoulder, he gasps. His hair is gone. All seventy feet of it has disappeared, and Peter raises his hands to pat the top of his head. 

Now his hair was shorter. Deep brown curls meeting his hands and springing up between his fingers. The tears rolled down his face now. 

“Here,” Tony reached into his satchel that was hanging at his side, and pulls out the jeweled hoop -- crown, Peter corrects himself. It’s a crown. “For you.” 

“What--” Peter starts, but then Tony is placing the crown on Peter’s head. 

“A perfect fit,” Tony says sadly. 

Suddenly, they were standing in the town square in the kingdom, but it was completely empty. In front of them stood the giant mural of the King, Queen, and the baby with beautiful hair. And on the baby’s head was… Tony’s crown. 

The same crown that now sat on Peter’s head. 

“Don’t you see it?” Tony asks, not taking his eyes off Peter. 

In the mural, the painted people seem to be staring right at them. Peter looks at the Queen who seems to have his eyes. The King has his nose. The baby shares his wavy hair that tumbles like a waterfall. 

“He’s the lost prince,” Tony explains. “Taken the day after he was born, right from his parent’s own bedroom. Born on August tenth. The kingdom releases lanterns on his birthday every year to guide him home.” 

Peter’s breath catches in his throat. 

“You feel as though those lanterns are meant for you… Well, maybe there’s a good reason for that.” 

Peter turns and looks at Tony. “Tony…” 

“Guide yourself home, Peter. Guide yourself home, and never look back.” 

Peter wakes with a gasp. There are tears in his eyes, and he breathes heavily as he stares up at the ceiling. Every moment of the dream playing on repeat in his mind, over and over, like a song that won’t stop. 

Tony’s words are in his mind. The image of that prince; of the prince’s parents. Of that crown that seemed to fit his head perfectly. 

He knew the truth. 

“Peter, Treasure?” Quentin calls up the stairs, “Darling, I know I said come down soon, but… Dinner’s ready!” 

Peter tenses, throwing himself off the bed and stalking towards the door; a new hatred brewing behind his eyes. The man climbing the stairs right now -- an imposter -- had no idea what was coming to him. 

“Peter--” 

Peter steps into the doorframe, his brows furrowed and obviously taking Quentin by surprise. 

“Treasure,” Quentin says with a grin, “have you washed up? Dinner’s ready.” 

“I’m the lost prince,” Peter simply says. 

Quentin stares at the boy in shock. “Excuse me?” 

“I’m the lost prince, aren't I, Father? Or should I say, Quentin, because you are obviously no parent to me.” 

Quentin’s expression turns cold. “Peter, why would you ever say that? What has gotten into you?” 

“It was you!” Peter cries, stepping forward and forcing Quentin to take a step back. “You stole me from my parents all those years ago! You did it!” 

“Everything I did was for you, Peter.” 

Peter’s fists clenched tightly. “All my life, I’ve been hiding from other people who might use me. But I should have been hiding from you! You used me!” 

A fire burned behind Quentin’s eyes, and before, a look like that would have made Peter back down. But not now. Not ever again. 

“Where will you go, Peter? He won’t be there for you.” 

Peter inhales quickly, his panic spiking, but his walls refusing to break. “What did you do?” 

“That man -- that criminal,” Quentin says with a sickening smile, “he shall be hanged for his crimes.” 

Peter’s eyes widen. “No.” 

That switch flicks in Quentin’s eyes once again, and he’s right back into father-mode. He rushes towards Peter, cooing and trying to run his hands through the boy’s hair. “Oh, Treasure, it’s alright. It will be okay. Everything happens for a reason. We will be okay when--” 

“No!” Peter cries and tears away the man. “You were wrong about everything! You were wrong about him! All he did was show me respect and love, unlike you, who is just trying to use me for my powers. I will never let you use me or my hair again!” 

That fatherly-switch in Quentin’s mind flickers and then dies completely. His facade crumples, and the expression on his face slowly starts to fill Peter with dread. 

Quentin’s hand jumps out and grabs onto Peter’s wrist, holding on with a strength the boy didn’t know he possessed. 

“You don’t understand what you’re messing with here, Peter,” Quentin snaps, “I raised you to keep what I love alive, and if you won’t appreciate that then you don’t deserve to have it! I’m sorry, Treasure, I never wanted it to come to this, but if you are gonna force me to be the villain, than, guess what… I’m the villain now.”

Chapter Text

Tony paced his cell relentlessly, his body running on pure panic and dwindling adrenaline. He was honestly surprised that he hadn’t worn the soles off his boots off yet… either that or how his feet hadn’t fallen off, completely dead at the ankles.  

A sudden creak and bang have Tony turning his head and staring eye to eye with Ross. This time, no smirk crosses Tony’s face. Just pure, unaltered fear. 

“Let’s get this over with, Stark,” Ross grunts. Behind the captain, fellow guards glared at Tony. 

Tony gulps and his hand raises to his throat, the mental image of their demands fogging his mind with dread. I’m gonna be gone before I can even attempt to save Peter. 

They drag him down the hallway. Tony’s body going limp in their large arms; his head hanging and eyes glassy. As long as they were dragging him towards his own grave, he wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of compliance. 

But when something flashes in his peripheral, he allows his gaze to drift to the left, and he finds Toomes watching him being pulled across the cobble. 

Fury courses through Tony as easily as blood, and he plants his boots on the ground. With a grunt, he elbows the guard on his left in the gut, and the man tumbles to the ground, obviously not expecting Tony to liven up so suddenly.  

The second guard tries to tackle Tony, but Tony bodychecks him violently, and the guard falls. Tony takes his opportunity. 

He lunges towards Toomes’ cell, grabbing the crook by his shirt and pulling him against the bars. “How did you know about him? How did you know about, Peter!” 

“The big guy told us about him!” Toomes admits, quickly. “His-- his father, or somethin’!” 

Tony’s grip loosens. “His… father?” 

Two sets of hands are suddenly back on him, and they pull him down the hallway once more. Tony tries to pull away once more, but they are holding on with a deadly grip. 

“No, wait!” Tony cries out. Toomes watches him with a worried expression. “He’s in danger! His father is dangerous! Wait, stop!” 

Tony grunts and struggles, trying to break free, but the guards are having none of it. So when the captain suddenly stops in his tracks, both guards halt, and Tony almost topples forward. 

“What is this?” Ross asks, staring at the closed door in front of them. 

Tony wants to tell him just to open the door, when the slot on the front slides open, and a set of wide, green eyes stare back at them. 

“What’s the password?” The eyes ask, and Tony smiles. Clint. 

Ross pounds on the door. “Open up!” 

“The password first.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

“Not it.” 

“Open the door!” 

“Are you even trying?” 

“Look, I’m going to give you to the count of three,” Ross growls. “One… two…” 

Clint’s eyes suddenly start to the right, and he says, “Oh, watch out.” 

Before Ross can even react, a wrench is coming down over his head, and the captain crumples like paper. Thor stands beside him, staring down at Ross sprawled over the cobble in disappointment. 

“Nice one, Big Guy!” Tony says. The guards still holding Tony’s arms tremble in Thor’s shadow. 

Thor growls, and the guards don’t have to be warned twice before they are immediately letting go. Without a word, Thor slings Tony over his shoulder and the door behind them opens. Clint grins at the scene in front of them. 

Thor races through the open door and down the hallway. Tony only catches a glimpse of the two guards fleeing in the opposite direction; both of them leaving their captain unconscious on the floor. 

They make it out of the building in record time and dash into the courtyard. Sunlight streams into the yard, and it feels like forever since Tony’s felt light on his skin. Thor puts him down surprisingly gentle, and Tony turns to come nose to nose with Bucky. 

“Hey,” the metal-arm-welding-pianist says gruffly. 

“Thanks for the rescue,” Tony says with a smirk. 

“Don’t thank us yet,” Sam pushes Bucky aside, and Tony follows his finger to the balcony surrounding the courtyard. From the doors, dozens of guards flood in, all making towards the stairs to ambush them. 

“Quick,” Bucky takes Tony’s arms and pulls him towards a lone wagon. “Your ride. Keep your hands in.” 

“What are you talking about?” Tony asks. But he doesn't get a response, because several sets of hands are shoving him inside the vehicle, and then someone pulls the stoppers away from the wheels. The wagon immediately starts rolling towards an open gate leading outside. 

“Bucky?” Tony calls back to the group of ruffians all watching him glide away. But then the wagon picks up speed, and Tony starts to panic. “Bucky!” 

“Hands in!” he hears someone shout, and then he’s out the gates. 

The wagon travels down a dirt road, but then that dirt road follows a hill, which turns into an even steeper incline. A scream rises in Tony’s throat as the vehicle soars down the slope, his hands gripping the sides so tightly he could feel the splinters taking root. 

The hill eventually evens out onto a slightly bumpy road, but just because he wasn’t on a slope anymore doesn't mean he stopped going at light speed. The cart continued to rocket down the road -- the rocks and potholes not helping any -- and Tony’s mind frantically searches for a way to slow this thing down. 

But before he can even try anything drastic, the cart hits a particularly large rock, and the wheel blows off completely.  

“Shit, shit, shit!” Tony cries as the wagon spins out of control, and it crashes completely onto the grass beside the road. 

Tony groans as he waits for the world to stop spinning, and when he finally peels his eyes open, he is starting into two sky blue eyes. 

“Steve?” Tony asked, his voice weak. The horse huffs, and nasty smelling slobber coats Tony’s nose. “Ick,” Tony grumbles as he wipes it off. 

Steve bits down on the man’s sleeve and starts urging him onto his feet. Tony complies with a grunt, and soon Steve is trying to urge him onto his back. 

“How did I know you would be a part of this?” Tony says, climbing onto the horse and they immediately take off in the direction of the forest. “Faster, Cap, Peter needs us.” 

 

----

 

The rope tugged on Peter’s skin painfully, and he whimpered into the gag around his mouth. The chains tied around his waist dragged him down and left him feeling more exhausted than he should have. 

“Quiet, Treasure, quiet,” Quentin coos, dragging the back of his finger along Peter’s cheek. “It won’t be long ‘till we can take those off.” 

Peter resisted a shudder at the feeling of the imposter’s calloused fingers, and he couldn’t help the second whimper. The way Quentin talked to him now made him feel more like a pet, and less like a person. 

Quentin moves back to where he was packing up the last of their things, but a sudden cry of a horse had both residents of the tower whipping their heads towards the open window. Peter couldn’t help but feel the tiniest bit of relief. 

Steve, his mind provides, someone came for me. 

“Peter!” Someone is shouting a second later, and Peter’s heart soars. Tony, Tony, Tony. 

“Peter, let down your hair!” Tony screams out once more. 

Peter can’t hold back the tears of joy that prick at his eyes. He tries to push past the gag and call out, but the cries are muffled and he knew Tony would never hear him. Quentin glares at the child, and leans in close, his eyes threatening. 

“Make another noise, and I slit your throat.” 

That shut Peter up pretty quickly. 

He watched as Quentin picked up a good amount of Peter’s hair, and a moment later, he was throwing the weight out the window. Peter felt it as there was a violent tug to his head, and a few tears slipped free. 

Tony climbed. Peter could feel the constant tugging, so he could also tell how close he was to getting to the top. The thief reached the window in record time, and Peter’s heart screamed when the familiar figure came into view. 

Quentin slipped into the shadows and out of view, so when Tony and Peter made eye contact, Peter took his chance to alert him. 

“Peter, thank god,” Tony gasps, immediately rushing forward. 

Peter cries and shouts, each word of warning smothered by the cloth in his teeth. Tony’s eyebrows screw up in confusion, but before he can get anything else out, Quentin sweeps into view and attacks. 

Tony grunts violently, and Peter realizes too late that Quentin has stabbed him in the stomach. 

Peter shrieks. 

“Oh, shut it,” Quentin says with a snarl. Who he was addressing, Peter did not know.

Tony falls to his knees, then collapses with a groan. His hands press down on his abdomen; his already red vest turning crimson. He curls in on himself in pain. Peter pulls against the chains, his tears threatening to spill over and destroy him.   

“Now look what I had to do, Treasure,” Quentin says, sounding bored. He kicks Tony with his boot. Tony writhes momentarily on the floor. “But don’t worry, Peter. He won’t last long, and our secrets will never make it outside these walls. We are leaving.” 

Peter doesn't take his eyes from Tony, even when Quentin stalks towards him and starts to pull him away by the chains. Peter immediately starts to resist, pulling back and screaming. 

“Stop that!” Quentin cries, “we are going somewhere where no one will find you, and that is that!”  

Peter continues to pull back, the gag finally coming free from his mouth. “No!” He screams, making Quentin stop his tugging and instead stare down at the child at his feet. “I won’t stop! I will never stop trying to get back to the life you stole from me. I will always run. I will always hide. I will always resist.” 

Tony groans behind him. Peter’s chest constricts. It takes all he has to say his next sentence with a steady voice. 

“But if you let me heal him-- if you let me save him, I will never resist. I will be with you forever. Forever and ever. I will never run. Never hide. I will be your… Treasure. Just, please, let me save him.” 

Quentin’s eyes narrow, and he inhales deeply. 

“No, Peter, please,” Tony groans. Peter resists the urge to turn and look at him. “Please, Kid, don’t.” 

Peter gulps. “Let me save him, and I will do anything.” 

Quentin presses his lips together tightly, yet he lets go of the chains and walks over to Tony. He grabs the back of the thief’s collar and aggressively yanked him into a sitting position. Tony bites back a cry of pain. 

Quentin’s expression stays cold as he walks to the other side of the room to grab some spare rope. But as he makes his way back, he trips over a pile of Peter’s hair and his hand flies out, knocking over the standing mirror. Shards of glass scatter across the entire floor, and Peter flinches. 

The underside of Quentin's eye starts to twitch, and he ignores the mess, moving to tie Tony to the banister. “In case you get any smart ideas,” the imposter hisses. 

Tony grimaces. 

“Make it quick,” Quentin says as he lets Peter go. Peter wastes no time. 

“Tony!” Peter cries, practically flinging himself onto the thief. “Oh my God, oh my-- okay, okay… you’re gonna be alright, okay?” 

“Peter,” Tony groans, his eyes misty. “Stop--” 

“No, you have to trust me.” 

“I-- I can’t let you… you can’t do this.” 

“Tony,” Peter places a hand on the man’s shoulder. “I can’t let you die.” 

“But if you--” Tony breaks his sentence short with a hiss of pain. 

“Don’t worry about me.” 

“You’ll die, too.” 

Peter nods sadly, his vision blurring. “But it’s gonna be fine.” 

Peter starts gathering his hair up to wrap around Tony’s abdomen, but before he can start, Tony places a hand on his cheek. 

“Tony, what are you…” Peter’s voice trails as Tony’s hand comes up in a sudden, wide arch. He can feel it as a shard of the mirror slices through his hair. The breeze on his neck is alarming, but what is more so is the feeling that fills his chest. 

Peter can feel it as his magic tears up all of its roots and shrivels, any and all power vanishing like dust in the wind. Dread clouds his mind. 

All seventy feet of hair flashes a sudden, blinding silver, and then curls up into dark ringlets. Dead. Useless. Sixteen years of work wasted. 

Quentin shrieks. “NO! No, what have you done! How-- how could you!” The imposter darts towards the mounds of hair, gathering it up in his arms before dropping it with a second shriek. “I’m gonna kill you!” 

He lunges for Tony, but Peter is quick on his feet. The boy snatches one of the mirror shards and holds it towards the kidnapper. “It’s over, Quentin.” 

Peter watches as Quentin shakes in front of him. His skin turns ashy and grey, and his previously strong build starts to deflate. His clothes grow two sizes too large, as the man wearing them shrinks into a stick figure. 

Peter’s eyes narrow. “You can’t trick me anymore.” 

Quentin growls and swings boney claws towards the child, but Peter slices him quick across the face with his shard. Quentin hisses and stumbles backward. 

But when he suddenly trips on dead hair, he falls to close to open window, and Peter isn’t quick enough to stop the imposter from tumbling out of the tower. Quentin screams, his ghostly pale face twisting in grief, and then he’s gone. 

Peter breathes heavily, his mind trying to compress what he just saw, but Tony’s sudden moaning has him pulled back into reality. 

“Tony,” Peter says, kneeling at his side. “No, no, I can still… I can still fix this.” 

“Peter,” Tony whispers, his skin cold. 

Peter presses his hands against the wound, his palms becoming warm. “Magic, gleam and glow, let your power known. Let them all now see, just how--” Peter is taken over by a sob. He knows the outcome of what this will be. 

Tony reaches up and wipes a tear away. 

“We won, Tony,” Peter says, pressing the man’s hand against his cheek. He relishes in the remaining warmth. “Can you hear me? We won. We did it… we won.” 

“Peter,” Tony coughs. Blood coats his lips. “Thank you… for being… my family.” 

Peter laughs wetly, “Thank you for being mine.” 

Tony smiles shortly, and before Peter knew it, the man’s eyes were drifting shut. Peter sobbed, his arms wrapping around Tony. The person who, despite it all, was his real father.  

He could feel his tears fall onto Tony’s vest as he buried his face in the red vest. He didn’t want to go on. Everything had been taken from him. He didn’t have something to live for, so why should he keep fighting? 

If he shut his eyes right here and now and they never opened again, he would drift off feeling content. 

But before he could drown in grief, he was shocked out of tears as Tony suddenly gasped deeply. Peter sprung off of him, looking down in fright. 

But he wasn’t dreaming. Tony was alive. He was breathing in and out quickly, his eyes open wide and darting around before falling on Peter. 

“Tony,” Peter gasped, his eyes streaming. 

Tony grinned. He reached up one shaky hand and ran it through Peter’s hair. Curls threaded through his fingers like water over rocks. 

“You know, Kid, I think this new hair suits you well.” 

Peter laughed, throwing himself back into Tony’s arms. 

“Are you okay?” Tony asked as if he wasn’t the one who died just a second ago. 

“How could I be anything but not?” Peter says, only holding him tighter. “I’m finally home.”

Chapter Text

Peter wasn’t ready. 

In a few short minutes, he would be meeting the king and queen. His real, flesh and blood relatives. The only living people who shared even a fraction of his DNA. 

He paced back and forth with short steps. He kept reaching his hands up to string his fingers through his hair, before realizing that it was gone after grabbing a fist full of air. 

“You okay?” Tony asked, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder and effectively stopping his pacing.  

Peter stares into his eyes. Deep, dark… and completely full of trust. In his head, Peter knew he wasn’t ready -- he didn’t know if he ever would be -- but on the outside, for Tony, Peter could at least be okay.  

“Yes… I’m great,” he happily found that he wasn’t lying through his teeth. 

Tony smiles, and with a small sigh, he turns towards the sprawling city. The castle really did have the best views. 

“Just think, Pete. This is all gonna be yours.” 

Peter laughs, shaking his head in disbelief. “That’s a little tricky to wrap a mind around.” 

“Don’t forget about me when you’re king, though.” 

Peter looks to Tony with a mix of a smile, and a small bit of shock. “I couldn’t, especially since you’ll be living just down the hall.” 

Tony’s face creases into a confused smirk. “What are you talking about, Spidey?” 

“You don’t think I’d be able to have a whole castle and not give you a wing. I think that would get a little lonely… just me, all alone, that is.” 

“You’d have Ned--” 

“Tony.” 

Tony smiles, and Peter can see the unshed tears glistening in his eyes. “Thank you.” 

Peter smiles himself, his own eyes starting to burn. “Of course… blood, it means nothing. We’re family.”  

Tony runs a hand through his hair. “Damn, Kid, anyone ever tell you that you’re kinda sappy?” 

Peter laughs softly, but it’s cut short when the doors behind them suddenly fly open. Standing on the opposite side is a pair of people who seem far too well dressed for a Saturday. 

Queen May and King Benjamin Parker are not who Peter was hoping for, but in another way, they are so much better. Only a few days ago, Peter wasn’t hoping for anything like this -- much less knowing that it even existed. 

From what he has heard, the couple has done an incredible job stepping into Peter’s parent's shoes when they passed, and the kingdom couldn’t be happier with their leadership. 

“Peter?” May finally asked, breaking the silence. Her voice is warm, and Peter just wants to fall into it. 

It takes him a few seconds and a burst of courage, but he eventually nods, and May bursts into happy tears. He can even see Ben shed a few. 

“Come here,” May whispers, her arms opening. 

Peter doesn't waste a second. The hug he receives is one of the best in the world. 

They fall to the ground; the king, queen, and prince, all finally reunited. It stays like that for a few moments, before Peter opens his eyes and spots, Tony, watching them fondly. 

The boy reaches out an arm, beckoning Tony in. The man refuses at first, but when Peter grabs his hand, he allows himself to be pulled in. 

That addition only makes this moment 1000 times better.  

 

----

 

“Well, I bet you can guess what happened next,” Tony says, the sounds of music and laughter ringing out around them. The group of children sitting at his feet all stared at him excitedly. “The lost prince had been found; the kingdom got their heir; so what else would you do than party?” 

A few of the parents watching him chuckle to themselves. Tony grins. 

“The party lasted for a whole week. It was the best festival the kingdom had ever seen, and quite honestly, I don’t even know if I remember most of it. Dreams were always coming true. Bucky finally got to play piano in front of a real audience. Bruce might’ve just found the person of his dreams, yet only time will tell. And yes, despite Steve being a horse, he took over as captain of the guard. I guess he’s doing a pretty good job.” 

A tiny hand stuck up in the crowd of children. “What about you? Did your dreams come true?” 

The question took Tony by surprise. All he ever wanted was to escape. Find a world where he could start over and be free of the life he was given at birth. Free of the father he had; free of the reputation he created for himself; free of the feeling of loneliness that plagued him.  

But now… now, all of that felt like a dream. Like a completely different person.

His new dream became Peter. 

Peter gave him his new life. His new family. His new home. 

Tony looks to the child and smiles. “Yes, I can say for certain that my dreams did come true.” 

The child beams. 

“What are we doing over here?” Peter is suddenly standing next to Tony, and all the children gasp. 

“Hey, Pete,” Tony says, standing from his seat. “I was just telling the kiddies the best story they will ever hear.” 

“Oh, boy,” Peter looks to the kids. “Did you like it?” 

“Yes!” A chorus of voices rings out. 

“Was it real?” A small girl asks, excitedly. 

Peter takes a moment, but then he says, “Do you think it was?” 

“Yeah! It was so cool! You got to take down a bad guy, and you became a prince, and… and--” 

“Okay, Cassie,” a woman swoops in a takes the little girl by the hand. “That’s enough for now. Why don’t you wave good-bye to the prince and Lord Tony.” 

“Bye, Prince Peter!” Cassie cries out, and the crowd starts to disperse. 

Peter waves after them. Tony places a hand on his shoulder. 

“I hope it’s okay that I told them our story,” Tony says, and Peter shrugs. 

“It’s fine. They’re kids. They’ll only believe the parts that they want too.” 

“Which will probably be all of it.” 

“...yeah,” Peter smiles softly, “come on. The party waits for no one.” 

Peter starts to walk away, and Tony watches him go for a second, before following. He’s close to catching up when a woman steps in front of him and it catches them both off balance. 

Tony trips, and with a yelp, he starts sailing towards the ground. But two hands suddenly caught him around the waist and he finds himself being held in a dip only a foot above the cobble. 

He looks up into crystal blue eyes. The woman was holding him up, her strawberry blonde hair falling like a curtain around them, shielding the surrounding world from view. 

“I’m sorry,” Tony says, sounding flustered as she rights them. 

“My fault, I wasn’t looking.” 

“Tony,” he sticks out his hand. “That’s my name.” 

She smirks shortly. “My name is Pepper.” She shakes his hand. 

“Pepper. Thank you for catching me.” 

Pepper lets go of his hand, her long fingers lingering. “Anytime, Tony.” 

“Tony!” Peter shouts from behind them, and Tony is startled out the moment. 

“I have to go,” Tony says. 

“Of course. I do hope I’ll see you soon,” Pepper says. 

“Don’t worry,” Tony winks before practically skipping off in the opposite direction. 

“Who was that?” Peter asks, a teasing grin on his face. 

“Shut up,” Tony swats him on the shoulder. 

They walk towards the castle, people stopping and staring in awe at the passing prince. Peter waved and smiled at everyone as they passed, and Tony grinned at how the boy beamed. 

“Come on, Pete,” he says, quickening his steps. “We’re going to be late for the lantern lighting.” 

They reach the doors to the palace, and a guard opens it for them. After thanking him, Peter turns to Tony.  

“After you, my lord,” Peter does an overdramatic bow and gestures inside. 

Tony rolls his eyes as Peter snickers. 

“You really are the worst,” Tony pushes the boy in first and Peter laughs. 

“You love me,” he says, taking the lead. 

Tony just stares at the back of the boy’s curls, a smile stretching across his lips. “You got that right, Kid.”